Updated at 8:32 p.m. EDT (0031 UTC): The H-2A rocket lifted off on time to deploy the XRISM space telescope as scheduled at T+14 min. 21 sec. A second burn was performed on the upper stage and the SLIM Lunar Lander was launched approximately 48 minutes after launch.
The next-generation X-ray space telescope and experimental lunar lander returned to the launch pad on Wednesday after a ten-day delay. The H-2A rocket is scheduled to lift off from the Tanegashima Space Center in Japan at 7:42 p.m. EDT (8:42 a.m. local time / 2342 UTC).
The launch was delayed from August 27 because upper-level winds exceeded the liftoff limits of the H-2A rocket.
A Japanese H-2A rocket prepares for a refueling launch on Sunday. Image: MHI Launch Services. The X-ray Imaging and Spectroscopy Mission, or XRISM for short, which the mission team calls crism, is a collaboration between JAXA, the Japanese space agency, NASA, and ESA, the European Space Agency. X-ray telescopes need to be placed in space because the Earth’s atmosphere blocks the wavelength. X-ray observations allow astronomers to study some of the hottest and most massive objects in the Universe and the most powerful gravitational pulls, such as black holes.
Artist’s concept of the XRSIM X-ray Space Telescope in orbit. Image: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Conceptual Imaging Laboratory. “Some of the things we hope to study with XRISM are the aftermath of starbursts and near-light-speed jets of particles fired by supermassive black holes at the centers of galaxies,” said Richard Kelley, principal investigator of NASA’s XRISM during the Goddard spaceflight. Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “But of course, we are most excited about all the unexpected phenomena that XRISM will discover as it observes our space.”
XRISM has two main instruments on board. Resolve, which will perform X-ray spectroscopy cooled to absolute zero with liquid helium, and Xtend, a camera that will image space with X-ray vision.
If all goes according to plan, XRISM will be launched from the rocket just over 14 minutes after launch.
Artist’s impression of the SLIM Light Lunar Landing Technology Demonstration Mission. Image: JAXA. Also, the H-2A rocket is SLIM, short for Smart Lander for Investigating Moon. It is a lightweight 700 kg spacecraft designed to demonstrate navigation systems for precision landing on the Moon in rugged lunar terrain.
A two-minute launch of the H-2A upper stage will be required to launch the SLIM. It will separate from the launch vehicle approximately 48 minutes into the flight. The craft will use a fuel-efficient trajectory that will take about four months to reach the Moon.