Japan Launches Next-generation Weather Satellite

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WASHINGTON — The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Corp. successfully launched the nation’s next-generation Himawari-8 weather satellite Oct. 7 from the Tanegashima Space Center aboard an H-2A rocket, JAXA said.

Built by Mitsubishi Electric Corp. of Tokyo, Himawari-8 will observe weather conditions from geostationary orbit at 140 degrees east longitude. Its main sensor is the Advance Himawari Imager built by Exelis Geospatial Systems of Rochester, New York.

The sensor is similar to the Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI) developed by Exelis for the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s next generation of geostationary-orbiting weather satellites, built by Lockheed Martin and slated to begin launching in 2016.

“We are all excited to get the ABI technology launched into space,” Eric Webster, vice president for weather systems for Exelis, said in a company press release issued Oct. 6. In addition to providing Japan with improved weather forecasting information, the Himawari-8 sensor will give NOAA experience in working with ABI-class data, he said.

Himawari-8 and its twin, Himawari-9, scheduled to launch in 2016, will make observations with greater frequency and in more spectral bands than the Multifunctional Transport Satellites they were designed to replace. This will provide unprecedented precision in monitoring not only clouds and other weather conditions but also volcanic ash and atmospheric aerosols, according to information posted on the Japan Meteorological Agency website.

The launch was the 25th overall for the H-2A, built and operated by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries of Tokyo, and the vehicle’s 19th consecutive success.