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Japan launches satellite to explore sun

Reuters | September 23 2006

Japan launched an observation satellite on Saturday on a joint mission with the United States and Britain to explore the sun.

Led by Japan's space agency JAXA, the Solar-B mission was launched to improve scientists' understanding of solar flares and eruptions that can have devastating effects on satellite systems.

The 900-kg (1,984-lb) satellite was launched from Kagoshima, southern Japan, and was headed for a north-south orbit around the earth pointing continuously at the sun.

"In this modern world, we can't separate communication, broadcast and weather satellites from our life," said Takeo Kosugi, Solar-B project manager at JAXA.

"So it is becoming very important to protect satellites from solar eruptions," he said.

Solar-B is Japan's third solar observation satellite after launches in 1981 and 1991. It will begin full-scale observations around late November.

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