An unmanned Japanese rocket carrying more than five tons of space station hardware, scientific gear and crew supplies vaulted away from its scenic seaside launch stand in southern Japan Friday (U.S. time) and set off on weeklong flight to the International Space Station.
The powerful H-2B rocket's two hydrogen-fueled first stage engines roared to life as the countdown ticked to zero, followed a few seconds later by ignition of four strap-on solid-fuel boosters at 10:06 p.m. EDT (11:06 a.m. Saturday local time), roughly the moment Earth's rotation carried the launch pad into the plane of the space station's orbit.
(Credit: NASA TV)
Trailing a plume of fire and a billowing cloud of exhaust, the 186-foot-tall H-2B smoothly climbed skyward through rainy weather and quickly disappeared into a deck of low clouds, arcing out over the Pacific Ocean on a southeasterly trajectory tilted 51.6 degrees to the equator.
Flight controllers said the strap-on boosters burned out and fell away in pairs as planned about two minutes after liftoff, followed four minutes later by the first stage. The second stage then ignited and continued the push to orbit.
There were no apparent pro... [Read more]