Japanese satellites survived deadly quake in clean rooms
BY STEPHEN CLARK
Posted: March 28, 2011
Inspections show Japan's next space station cargo freighter and two other large Japanese-built satellites due for launch over the next year suffered no major damage from the March 11 earthquake that ravaged parts of the country, according industry officials.
The cargo craft is due to blast off in January 2012 aboard an H-2B rocket from the Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan. It will ferry crew provisions, experiments and other equipment to the space station.
Makoto Miwada, a JAXA spokesperson in Tokyo, said the HTV was "safe" following the quake.
A JAXA climate research satellite named GCOM-W1 undergoing environmental testing at the Tsukuba Space Center was also unharmed during the earthquake despite significant damage to other parts of the complex, which is located about 30 miles northeast of central Tokyo.
Tsukuba's space station control center was taken offline after losing power and commanding capabilities in the wake of the tremor. Japanese officials restored the control center to full functionality last week.
The climate research satellite will continue observations conducted by NASA's Aqua mission.
GCOM-W1's microwave scanning radiometer instrument was also at Tsukuba during the earthquake, along with radar sensors for the Global Precipitation Mission and the joint European-Japanese EarthCARE satellite.
"There is no damage to the GCOM-W1 spacecraft and the other flight hardware even after the quake," Miwada told Spaceflight Now. "But the Tsukuba people may need several weeks or months to repair the building and recover the clean (room) for testing."
Miwada added some of the GCOM-W1 satellite's testing will have to be rescheduled. What affect the quake will have on the mission's scheduled launch in November remains unclear.
GCOM-W1 is expected to launch on an H-2A rocket with South Korea's KOMPSAT 3 high-resolution Earth imaging satellite.
ST-2 Satellite Ventures, a joint venture formed by Singapore Telecommunications Ltd. and Chunghwa Telecom Co. of Taiwan, will use the ST-2 spacecraft to cover the Asia-Pacific region.
ST-2 and India's GSAT 8 satellites will blast off on an Ariane 5 rocket in May.