Astro-H satellite scheduled already on 12th February 2016

Japanese X-ray space telescope will be launched, according to JAXA statement, on 08:45 GMT on 12th February 2016 from Tanegashima Space Center.

It will be sixth mission of Japanese X-ray astronomy satellite built in cooperation between Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS) and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). Astro-H, scheduled firstly for 2013 was postponed until early 2016 and now it has officially confirmed date of launch and launch window. On 13th February 2016, in time range 08:45-09:30 GMT it will be launched on atop of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries H-IIA rocket from Tanegashima Space Center. In case of any problems, scheduled reserved launch window is planned for 13th February 2016 till 29th February 2016.

X-ray observation satellites are one of more important sources of information about Universe. To observe such celestial phenomena like cluster of galaxies, black holes or supernovas in widest possible range scientists need something more than optical or radio telescopes on Earth. Due the atmosphere and magnetosphere only small quantity from wide range of waves are reaching Earth from space. High energy phenomena like supernova is emitting great portion of X-rays and Gamma-rays unfortunately they cannot be seen on Earth. That is why X-ray observation satellites like Astro-H are continuously build and developed. Astro-H is one of most recent and ISAS with JAXA are considering it as great chance for astronomy to gather data necessary for explaining beginning of the universe. Astro-H is equipped in four instruments providing highest resolution imaging on E = 3-10 keV band with coverage from soft X-rays to gamma-rays combined with extremely high sensitivity. These detectors will help in research on the behavior of matter in the gravitational strong field regime, the physical conditions in sites of cosmic-ray acceleration, and the distribution of dark matter in galaxy clusters.

Astro-H is large spacecraft developed for long term missions. It weighs 2.7 t, it is long for 14 m with wingspan of deployed solar arrays at 9 m. Power generated by solar arrays is at 3500 W. Four X-ray telescopes are placed in the nose fairing. On the opposite site of the satellite is installed extendable optical bench with X-ray detectors. This unusual solution was implemented into Astro-H to obtain better focal length. Detectors of soft X-rays are placed in the middle on special space frame. Satellite will be placed on 550 km × 550 km, with inclination at 31°.

Launch vehicle designated by JAXA for this mission will be H-IIA. It is designed as two stage rocket with weight at 445000 kg, total length is 53 m with diameter at 4m. First stage is equipped with one LE-7A engine which provides thrust at 1098 kN and could be supported with solid fueled boosters. Main engine is liquid fueled with LOX/LH2 propellant. Second stage is powered by single LE-5B engine with thrust at 137 kN also powered with LOX/LH2. Since 24th November 2015 H-IIA would utilize modernized second stage. It will provide longer burn time with possibility of third restart during final injection payload into orbit.