Two Japanese Sats Launch from Baikonur

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Two test satellites were launched by the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) aboard a Ukrainian Dnepr rocket Aug. 24.

The rocket was carrying both the Optical Inter-orbit Communications Engineering Test Satellite (OICETS) and the Innovative Technology Demonstration Experiment Satellite (INDEX) when it took off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

The holding mechanism of the Laser Utilizing Communications Equipment on OICETS was released successfully Aug. 25, and JAXA reported that the satellite reached its intended orbit and is functioning normally, completing its scheduled critical phase. The satellite’s onboard equipment functions will be verified for approximately three months, until November.

OICETS, which JAXA has renamed Kirari following its custom of assigning new names to satellites once they are launched, is designed to test communication links between its orbit and the geostationary orbit location of the European Space Agency’s Artemis satellite.

The satellite had been scheduled to launch earlier, but Artemis was deposited in the wrong orbit during a July 2001 launch and did not reach the correct geostationary orbit until January 2003.

INDEX, now renamed Reimei, is intended to try out various new satellite technologies. The satellite has successfully completed its scheduled critical phase and its first sequence, JAXA officials said Aug. 25.

The vehicle from which the satellites were launched is a converted liquid-fueled SS-18 intercontinental ballistic missile, developed by the Soviet Union and marketed by Moscow-based Kosmotras. This was the fifth launch to use the converted missile design.