Japan successfully launches H-2A rocket carrying SLIM rover, XRISM telescope

September 7, 2023  12:16

Japan has successfully launched the H-2A rocket that carried the SLIM rover and the XRISM X-ray telescope into space. The launch of the rocket took place from the Tanegashima Space Center today at 8:42am local time (3:42am Armenia time).

Due to adverse weather conditions, this launch was delayed for ten days. Both aforesaid devices successfully separated from the rocket on schedule, about an hour after launch. If everything goes according to plan, SLIM (Smart Lander for Investigating Moon) will try to make Japan's first soft landing on the Moon in a few months.

SLIM will make a long but fuel-efficient flight to the Moon and reach orbit in three to four months. It will then orbit the Moon for about a month before attempting to land on the Shioli Crater, which is located on the south side of the Moon and is about 300 meters in diameter. The device should land within 100 meters of the target in the Shioli Crater, which is a much more precise landing than was the case with previous lunar rovers.

The SLIM rover must make qualitative progress in terms of landing capabilities; that is, it must be able to land where Japan wants, and not where it is easy to do, as in the past. If this mission succeeds, it will enable future landings on planets with more limited resources than the Moon.

SLIM is equipped also with two small probes, which will be separated from the device after landing on the Moon. These two small devices will help the mission team monitor the condition of the larger rover, take pictures of the landing site, and provide communication for direct contact with Earth.

The main payload of the H-2A rocket is the XRISM (X-Ray Imaging and Spectroscopy Mission), a joint project between JAXA, NASA and ESA, which is being sent into low Earth orbit. As its full name suggests, this telescope will study the universe in X-ray light.

The telescope will help to investigate the main questions of modern astrophysics: How do the largest structures in the universe develop? How is the material that we are made of distributed throughout the universe? And how do galaxies form around the massive black holes at their centers? said Matteo Guainazzi, ESA XRISM project scientist.

XRISM is not the only X-ray telescope that will be in low-Earth orbit. The latter now houses the X-ray telescopes Chandra and XMM-Newton, launched in 1999, as well as NASA's NuSTAR telescope, which was launched in 2012.

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