Japan launched a next-generation geostationary meteorological satellite “Himawari-9”, aiming to further improve weather services in the Asia-Pacific region. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd. launched the Himawari-9 aboard the H-IIA Launch Vehicle No.31 (H-IIA F31) at 3.20 p.m. (local time), from JAXA’s Tanegashima Space Centre in Kagoshima prefecture, Xinhua news agency reported. The 3,500 kg satellite separated from the rocket at 3.47 p.m., as scheduled, and successfully entered the geostationary transfer orbit with a high point of 35,976 km, a low point of 250 km and an orbit inclination of 22.4 degrees.
The launch was originally scheduled for November 1, but was postponed due to unfavourable weather conditions. Himawari-9’s position will be fixed at 140 degrees east longitude for a mission scheduled to last up to 15 years for the Japan Meteorological Agency. Himawari-9 is the second of two identical weather satellites owned by the Japan Meteorological Agency to offer more detailed and more timely image of storms, clouds and other weather systems to forecasters in Japan and across the Western Pacific. The first one, Himawari-8, was launched in October 2014.
Himawari-9 is Japan’s ninth geostationary weather observatory since the first satellite in the Himawari, or sunflower, series launched in 1977. Himawari-8 and Himawari-9 will replace the country’s last pair of meteorological satellites, MTSAT 1R and MTSAT 2, which were launched in 2005 and 2006.
The new pair of satellites can take a full picture of East Asia and the Western Pacific every 10 minutes, compared to the 30-minute update times available with the old pair of MTSAT weather satellites. Himawari-9’s imager can take pictures of certain areas, such as all of Japan, at much faster refresh rates of every 2.5 minutes. In addition, improvements in resolution with the Himawari-8 and 9 satellites provide finer details of typhoons, volcanic ash and smoke plumes, fog and low-lying clouds.