Reorganization of ISAS and New Launch Vehicles

In 1981, by reorganizing the former ISAS, the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (new ISAS) was newly established as one of the National Inter-University Research Institutes directly belonging to the Ministry of Education, Science, Sports and Culture. Taking over the space project of its predecessor, the new ISAS began more ambitious activities toward even higher levels of space science.

Targeting Halley's comet which would reappear in 1985 after 76 years, ISAS began research and development of the fifth and latest generation MU vehicle, M-3SII, in April 1981. It utilized the first stage motor of its predecessor M-3S, while the 2nd and the 3rd stage motors and strap-on boosters were newly developed to enhance the payload capability. M-3SII-1 and -2, with an optional fourth stage, carried the first Japanese interplanetary probes, SAKIGAKE and SUISEI in January and August 1985 toward Halley's comet. In February 1987, February 1989, January 1990, August 1992 and February 1993, respectively, ISAS sent five satellites into earth orbit, GINGA, AKEBONO, HITEN, YOHKOH and ASCA.

One more satellite, EXPRESS, was launched for the last flight of M-3SII launch vehicle in February 1994, but resulted in a failure.

Space science using solid propellant rockets in Japan, which uttered its first cries in a small laboratory in 1955, has attained fruitful results including world-leading achievements in X-ray astronomy and space plasma physics, and went beyond the earth's gravitation into heliocentric space in 1985 toward the observation of Halley's comet. It was followed by the first Japan's Mars explorer, NOZOMI, in 1998, and Japan's space science can be said to have entered into a new era for solar system exploration with the advent of the M-V launch vehicle. M-V sent HALCA, NOZOMI, HAYABUSA, SUZAKU, AKARI and HINODE into orbit around the earth and interplanetary space. The M-V's last flight was the launch of HINODE on September 23, 2006.

The Age of Space Science ---- Mu Rockets INDEX