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Satellite Launch Vehicles

L-4S M-4S M-3C M-3H M-3S M-3S2 M-V Epsilon

In 1970, the Institute of Space and Aeronautical Science of the University of Tokyo, the predecessor of ISAS, succeeded in launching Japan's first artificial satellite OHSUMI with the L (Lambda) rocket. Since then, the M rocket series developed for the launch of scientific satellites has undergone successive improvements over 25 years. The first generation M-4S was a four-stage type and kept its attitude by tail fin and spinning. Orbit injection was made by gravity turn. The second generation M-3C was a three-stage type, with enhanced second and third stages. The installation of the TVC (Thrust Vector Control) and side-jet systems on the second stage greatly improved orbit-injection accuracy. The extension of the first stage of the M-3C increased the payload capacity of the M-3H version. In the third-generation M-3S, the introduction of the TVC system to the first stage improved orbit-injection accuracy and eased launching limitations. For the fourth generation M-3SII, we redeveloped the entire rocket, except for the first stage, to upgrade overall performance. For the fifth generation M-V, we put together all our technologies cultivated throughout the M series rocket's history and succeeded in developing the significant large-scale launcher in order to meet the demands of space science. M-V rockets launched four earth-orbiting observational satellites as well as the Mars explorer NOZOMI and the asteroid explorer HAYABUSA. For their role in successful missions including planetary exploration, these all-solid-propellant launch vehicles were highly praised as “the best solid-propellant rockets in the world.” After the M-V-7 in September 2006, JAXA discontinued the M-V series for various reasons, however, and started developing a new solid-propellant rocket "Epsilon" which is smaller, higher functioning and better suited for launching small satellites.

History of Satellite Launch Vehicles

Date Rocket Satellite Weight
Shape Altitude
1963 Start of research and development of M (Mu) rocket
1966 L-4S-1 Satellite was not put into orbit due to the abnormal flight of the 3rd stage caused by the improper separation of the 2nd stage.
1966 L-4S-2 Satellite was not put into orbit due to the ignition failure of the final stage.
1967 L-4S-3 Satellite was not put into orbit due to the ignition failure of the 3rd stage.
1969 L-4S-4 Satellite was not put into orbit because the 3rd stage was collided by the upper stage from behind.
1970 L-4S-5 OHSUMI
Japan's First Satellite
24 Elliptical 350/5,140 31
1970 M-4S-1 Satellite was not put into orbit due to the malfunction of sequence after the 4th stage ignition.
1971 M-4S-2 TANSEI
Test Satellite
63 Near Circular 990/1,110 30
1971 M-4S-3 SHINSEI
Japan's First Scientific Satellite
66 Elliptical 870/1,870 32
1972 M-4S-4 DENPA
Earth Environment Observation
75 Elliptical 250/6,570 31
1974 M-3C-1 TANSEI-2
Test Satellite
56 Elliptical 290/3,240 31
1975 M-3C-2 TAIYO
Solar Observation
86 Elliptical 260/3,140 32
1976 M-3C-3 Satellite was not put into orbit due to the control system failure.
1977 M-3H-1 TANSEI-3
Test Satellite
129 Elliptical 790/3,810 66
1978 M-3H-2 KYOKKO
Aurora Observation
126 Elliptical 630/3,970 65
1978 M-3H-3 JIKIKEN
Earth's Magnetosphere Observation
90 Highly Elliptical 220/30,100 31
1979 M-3C-4 HAKUCHO
X-ray Astronomy
96 Near Circular 545/577 30
1980 M-3S-1 TANSEI-4
Test Satellite
185 Near Circular 521/606 39
1981 M-3S-2 HINOTORI
Solar Observation
188 Near Circular 576/644 31
1983 M-3S-3 TENMA
X-ray Astronomy
216 Near Circular 497/503 32
1984 M-3S-4 OHZORA
Middle Atmosphere Observation
207 Elliptical 354/865 75
Halley's Comet Test Exploration
138 Heliocentric    
1985 M-3SII-2 SUISEI
Halley's Comet Exploration
140 Heliocentric    
1987 M-3SII-3 GINGA
X-ray Astronomy
420 Near Circular 530/595 31
Aurora Observation
295 Highly Elliptical 275/10,500 75
1990 M-3SII-5 HITEN
Lunar Swing-by
196 Lunar swingby    
1991 M-3SII-6 YOHKOH
Solar Observation
390 Near Circular 520/795 31
1993 M-3SII-7 ASCA
X-ray Astronomy
420 Near Circular 525/615 31
1995 M-3SII-8 (EXPRESS)
Satellite was not put into the planned orbit due to the 2nd stage failure and fell to the earth in its third orbiting. Ten months later, the satellite was found in Africa and provided reference data for reentry test.
1997 M-V-1 HALCA
Radio Astronomy
830 Highly Elliptical 560/21,000 31
1998 M-V-3 NOZOMI
Mars Exploration
540 Heliocentric 150/50,000
2000 M-V-4 (ASTRO-E)
Satellite was not put into orbit due to the deficit of the final velocity caused by the 1st stage combustion failure.
Asteroid Exploration
510 Heliocentric    
2005 M-V-6 SUZAKU
X-ray Astronomy
1,700 Circular 570 31
2006 M-V-8 AKARI
Infrared Astronomy
952 Sun-synchronous 700  
2006 M-V-7 HINODE
Solar Observation
900 Sun-synchronous 630 97.8

History of Japanese Space Research