UCHINOURA, Japan -- After four years of trying, Japan put a satellite in earth orbit today and thereby became the fourth nation in space.
A 16-foot Lambda rocket lifted off the launching pad at 1:25 p.m. with an 84-pound payload, shaped like a basketball, and within 20 minutes radar trackers reported the missile on target.
Official confirmation that earth orbit had been attained came at 2:50 from space officials in Washington. The Japanese withheld the announcement until they picked up the satellite on their own radar.
The instrument satellite went into an orbit ranging all the way from 265 to 1,500 miles above the earth, on a path that takes it over South America, Africa, Communist China and Japan.