Japan's National Space and Development Agency launched its third H2A booster from Tanegashima on 10 September, carrying the Unmanned Space Experiment Recovery System (USERS) and Data Relay Test Satellite (DRTS). Arianespace launched an Ariane 4 booster four days earlier. The launches come as the maiden flight of Boeing's Delta IV is delayed from 11 October by software problems.

The Japanese H2A2024 model used two large strap-on solid rocket boosters and four similar but smaller solid strap-on boosters and was equipped with 4m payload fairing. The launch followed two test flights, in August 2001 and February this year, which were successful despite a failure to deploy a payload on the second launch.

USERS will be deployed into a 450km low Earth orbit, to operate materials processing experiments, while DRTS will be deployed into a geostationary transfer orbit, firing its engine to circularise the orbit to geostationary, where it will provide inter-satellite and satellite-to-ground communications services.

On 6 September, an Ariane 44L successfully carried the Space Systems/Loral-built  Intelsat 906 communications satellite. Only two Ariane 4s now remain until Ariane 5 models take over. A second of three uprated models makes its inaugural flight next month.

Meanwhile, the software glitch that spoiled the first of two wet countdown demonstration tests of the first Delta IV on 30 August is going to delay the maiden flight of the booster, carrying Eutelsat W5, to no earlier than 3 November.

Source: Flight International