Japanese science cargo returns to Earth for study

Posted: May 30, 2003; Updated with news of recovery

An illustration of the re-entry capsule separating from rest of USERS. Credit: USEF
A small Japanese retrievable space capsule landed back on Earth Friday, carrying with it a load of scientific investigations from orbit, Japanese news agencies reported.

The re-entry module from the Unmanned Space Experiment Recovery System landed in the sea east of the Ogasawara Islands. The craft was successfully located and retrieved shortly after splashdown, The Japan Times reported.

Launched last September aboard an H-2A rocket, USERS has been housing experiments that focus on the growth of super-conductive materials in microgravity. Studies of the samples could help in such applications as flywheel electrical energy storage systems and magnetically levitated trains, officials say.

The spacecraft's parachuted touchdown came after the entry module separated from the USERS service module, which was left in a 500 kilometer orbit to conduct further research. The re-entry capsule fired a solid-fueled motor for a de-orbit burn to come back to Earth.

The service module will acquire data on its own systems over the coming months, some of which trace their origin to commercially-developed technologies.

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