JAPAN TO CONDUCT TESTS ON CHRISTMAS ISLAND, KIRIBATI TO DEVELOP REUSABLE

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SPACE VEHICLE

TOKYO, Japan (September 4, 2002 - Kyodo News Service)---Next month Japan will start a series of space exploration experiments using an unmanned jet-powered vehicle in Kiribati.

The goal is to develop a reusable space-going vehicle similar to the U.S. space shuttle.

The National Space Development Agency of Japan and the National Aerospace Laboratory announced that the experiments will be conducted from early October until mid-November on Christmas Island.

The four-meter (13.2-foot) test vehicle with wings, powered by jet engines, is expected to rise 5,000 meters (16,500 feet) above ground in auto-pilot mode, accelerate to around 700 kph (420 mph) in the air, and land on a runway with the help of global positioning system satellites.

The project is intended to test flight control technology required for the vehicle, which enters the final approach to the runway at a sharper angle than regular aircraft. About five flights are planned to test various altitudes and flight paths at Aeon Field on the island.

The development of Japan's HOPE version of the Space Shuttle has been frozen due to limited funding, but the space agency is hoping to resume it pending successful tests and a new space agency being launched after reorganization of the current aeronautical and space entities.

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