Japan’s H-2A Rocket To Launch UAE Earth Observation Satellite

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PARIS — Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) on March 9 booked its third export order for the H-2A rocket in a contract to launch the 350-kilogram Khalifasat Earth observation satellite for the United Arab Emirates’ government-owned EIAST organization.

The launch is to occur in late 2017 or early 2018. Khalifasat, which will be the first spacecraft built with UAE personnel in charge from start to finish, will ride into a polar low Earth orbit as a secondary payload on the H-2A. The main passenger will be Japan’s GOSAT-2 satellite studying greenhouse gas levels.

The H-2A rocket launched South Korea’s Kompsat-3 Earth observation satellite in 2012 as a secondary payload for a launch carrying the Japan space agency’s GCOM-W environment-monitoring satellite.

More recently, MHI won a breakthrough contract to launch the Telstar 12 Vantage telecommunications satellite for Canada’s Telesat. MHI officials have said they are working to reduce H-2A production and operating costs to make it more competitive on the global commercial-launch market.

Khalifasat will be the third spacecraft launched for the Emirates Institution for Advance Science and Technology, EIAST. Dubaisat-1 and Dubaisat-2 were launched in 2009 and 2013, both aboard Russian-Ukrainian Dnepr rockets.

Khalifasat is billed as the satellite that marks the independence of EIAST from foreign technology providers, notably South Korea’s Satrec Initiative. Some of the early work on Khalifasat was performed at Satrec’s facilities while EIAST’s own production plan was under construction.

Khalifasat is expected to have an imaging sensor with a 1-meter ground sampling distance in black and white, and 4 meters in color, with a 12.2-kilometer swath width from its 600-kilometer orbit. EIAST said it would be able to swivel 2 degrees off nadir to reduce the time between revisits of a given locale.

EIAST Director-General H.E. Yousuf Al Shaibani said MHI’s bid was “very competitive in overall commercial terms.”

Naohiko Abe, MHI’s vice president of space systems, said the contract win was also in part due to “the good relationship between EIAST and Jaxa,” Japan’s space agency.