Rocket launch over Japan looks just like California UFO reports

Remember when the pre-dawn SpaceX launch from Vandenberg just before Christmas created a flurry of UFO reports in Southern California? Now it’s Japan’s turn.

On Jan. 18th, the Japanese space agency JAXA launched a small rocket from the Uchinoura Space Center. It made a big display. Japanese artist and photographer Kagaya captured dramatic images of the rocket’s exhaust glowing in the starry pre-dawn sky over the Pacific:

“I watched the launch from Okinawa Island and photographed it using my Sony α7RIII camera,” says Kagaya, who has posted a must-see video of the event on Youtube:

Japan’s new Epsilon rocket is relatively small, designed to launch scientific satellites at a fraction of the cost of its larger predecessors. On this occasion, the Epsilon propelled an Earth observing satellite to orbit, the ASNARO-2. Power by solar cells and carrying a large X-band antenna, ASNARO-2 is a synthetic aperture radar capable of imaging the surface of our planet with 1-meter resolution.

Shortly after the launch, noctilucent (night shining) clouds were seen over a broad swath of western Japan as ice crystals forming in the rocket’s wake caught the rays of the rising sun. These clouds occur naturally around Earth’s poles, but they are very rare at lower latitudes such as Japan’s. In polar regions, noctilucent clouds are seeded by specks of meteor smoke, which become frosted by naturally occurring water vapor drifting up toward the edge of space. Over Japan, the ingredients were provided by JAXA: water vapor in the rocket’s exhaust mixed with solid-booster aerosols to create the display.

From NASA’s

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January 19, 2018 1:48 pm

Musk should take notes…

Reply to  Latitude
January 19, 2018 4:05 pm

SRBs (Solid Rocket Boosters) are relatively inexpensive launch stages, but they are not solutions for all circumstances. They are essentially sophisticated bottle rockets. Just like the Estes model rockets we played with as kids. Once you light them they burn until done, no throttling available, and usually the force is a real kick in the pants for manned flights.
NASA limits manned launch acceleration to be about 3 g’s. That is why they are used to assist the initial launch of only very massive manned launch vehicles where their thrust contribution doesn’t impart too many gees into the capsule.
The oxidizer is mixed in with the fuel so all that is required is an ignition source. The internal convolutions in the burn chamber of the propellant mixture are what determine burn rate and the nozzle is usually fixed (doesn’t gymbal for steering). So the thrust and Isp are preset and unalterable, and one size does not fit all.

There are some “hybrid” SRBs that inject oxidizer into a solid fuel canister/nozzle configuration. Burt Rutan’s Space ship one is one of those. You can shut them down (sort of) by throttling the oxidizer flow.

Space X’s liquid launch vehicles are far more versatile, and with the successful propulsive landings may prove to be more cost effective for their mission objectives.

BTW the JATO bottles referred to for the electric plane are small(ish) SRBs.

Reply to  rocketscientist
January 20, 2018 8:47 am

Why are they called JATO? These units are rockets not jets.
Perhaps RATO just didn’t work?

Reply to  rocketscientist
January 20, 2018 9:56 am

Maybe because they assist Jets to take-off?
The are some rather comical applications of these in military lore. If you’re interested, research how they tested these on a C-130 to see if it would work for rescue of the American hostages during the Iranian crisis. It’s a hoot!

Reply to  rocketscientist
January 20, 2018 2:40 pm

JATO was coined in an era when “rocket” invoked images of Buck Rogers movie serials. It was used by the US military as a way to give extra boost to early, inefficient-at-low-speed jet engined military airplanes. Rather than using the more-accurate RATO, the US military went with Jet Assisted Take Off. It was used for extra thrust so heavy jet bombers (esp B-47) could take off from normal-length airstrips. Some applications used internally mounted bottles and some used externally-mounted racks of bottles. Look for stories on the B47.

Using solid-fuel rockets for take-off boost actually started in Germany circa 1920 to get gliders into the air. Amazing how we keep finding uses today for 100-year-old tech.

The Brits did refer to it as Rocket Assisted Take Off Gear. I guess they didn’t care so much about how sci-fi-ey an image the word “rocket” might invoke, perhaps because they didn’t have to deal with ignorant US congresscritters for military appropriations.

January 19, 2018 1:56 pm

Very nice video. I appreciate the detail in the part showing the secondary fuel ignition.

Well done!

The Reverend Badger
January 19, 2018 2:13 pm

Found this last night coincidentally.

Reply to  The Reverend Badger
January 20, 2018 2:29 pm

Love It! Love this stuff…thanks for sharing the synchronicity of your observations. 100 monkeys, say I LOL.
Dr Greer (ER Surgeon – retired from Practice) is pitching that they are setting us up for a holographic ‘alien attack’.

Me? I figure it is time to go through the couch for lost change and see if I can buy some (pop)Corn Futures.

Reply to  The Reverend Badger
January 20, 2018 2:50 pm

In fairness, regardless of the degree appropriate, to Steven Greer, he’s HAS been at this for years, and apart from a book or two, plus speaking engagements, it is hard for me to see how some venial monetary self-interest could impel him to give up a (successful?) surgical career in pursuit of same. I’m a ‘follow the money’ guy, but it just doesn’t add up. His recent release which puts a crown on the Disclosure conference a short few years back, is (apparently) pretty well documented, (couple of orders of magnitude better than Cooke’s 97%, fer sure. Don’t call me shirely of course heh). Here’s his efforts, recent: –

Seriously, … Are We Alone? G-d didn’t say so, …in fact more than ‘hinted’ we are not. We have our own place in the Universe, that’s unassailable.
Me? Not a “Truther”, not a “Flat Earther”…more a bent towards the thinking of folks akin to Rupert Sheldrake: –

January 19, 2018 2:30 pm
J Mac
January 19, 2018 2:43 pm

Awesome video! Love the successive shock waves ‘cone’, after the stage 2 engine(s) fire and the missile goes supersonic….

January 19, 2018 2:49 pm

Sorry but: I have been watching liquid fueled rockets launch since I was a kid in the early 60’s (I was born in the 50’s). That is a liquid fueled rocket launch. Not little gray men. Not unicorns. The lady with the vlog above needs to feed her cats and have her meds adjusted. She obviously has “issues” with reality , and very likely with intelligence. Want to make a valid argument for XT life ladybug? Try anything other than your current method. It makes you look stupid, and a like flaming nutbar.

Reply to  Ray
January 19, 2018 3:24 pm

Sorry to fool your lying eye’s, the Epsilon rocket is a Japanese solid-fuel rocket.

Reply to  Duncan
January 19, 2018 3:25 pm
Pop Piasa
January 19, 2018 3:03 pm

How many kilograms of ozone destructive materials were injected into the stratosphere in those visual spectacles of our primitive rocketry?

Pop Piasa
Reply to  Pop Piasa
January 19, 2018 6:52 pm

Answer: Not enough to fret over.

J Mac
Reply to  Pop Piasa
January 19, 2018 10:18 pm

Just enough to get the payload into orbit!

Crispin in Waterloo but really in Ulaanbaatar
Reply to  Pop Piasa
January 20, 2018 8:55 am

Probably none. What makes you think that combustion products include ozone?

Solid fuels with incorporated oxygen are balanced to have virtually stoichiometric combustion conditions. They wouldn’t put more than barely enough oxygen in the fuel because it would be dead weight.

Does anyone know what the fuel chemistry is?

Intelligent Dasein
Reply to  Crispin in Waterloo but really in Ulaanbaatar
January 20, 2018 12:48 pm

The Epsilon solid rocket fuel mixture by mass is:

12% hydroxyl-terminated polybutadiene (fuel and binder)
68% ammonium perchlorate (oxidizer)
20% aluminum powder (fuel)

But, since I’m here anyway, I should point out that Poppa Pisa did not say that ozone was being deposited in the stratosphere or that it was a component of the rocket’s exhausted. He was talking about ozone-destroying chemicals in the rocket exhaust. You completely misread his comment.

Art in LA
January 19, 2018 3:36 pm

FYI, the pre-Christmas Vandenberg launch was not pre-dawn, but just after sunset … it was definitely very cool to see in person. I have some shots from that launch posted at my blog:

Kagaya’s work blows mine away. I’ll try to do better next time! All launches should happen at twilight for the best light, photographically speaking, of course!

January 19, 2018 5:55 pm

@ Duncan Sorry little brain but that is an LRB first and second stage burn. I really don’t care what you or wikkiwrong say about much of anything. I have seen more than 200 launches and that IS NOT an SRB. And when EXACTLY was the last time the government told the truth about anything? Especially a high security launch?

Reply to  Ray
January 19, 2018 6:53 pm

Ray, I t does look like a liquid propellant launch to me as well, but it sure was moving fast. The plume didn’t even get a chance to shear at different altitudes. Typically SRB plumes aren’t ice crystals but much sootier. Aluminum oxide in the plume may account for the high albedo.
Missile data says SRB, but I agree, the plume isn’t billowy enough, and too uniformly distributed.

Intelligent Dasein
Reply to  rocketscientist
January 19, 2018 10:22 pm

You could both have a point. The SRB-A3 uses hydroxl-terminated polybutadiene as the solid propellant, which would result in a rather elastic mass that would behave somewhat like a liquid fuel. Also, if you look at the close-ups of the first stage burn in the video, the exhaust plume is a bit more billowy than it initially appears.

January 20, 2018 11:39 am

Demonstrates how the Tunguska meteorite-comet event could have lit up the night sky for days afterwards (as was reported). I presume the luminosity of this refrated-reflected sunlight will depend upon the material deposited in the upper atmosphere. so can this give us an idea of the composition of the Tunguska bolide??


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