Japan launched the Global Precipitation Mission (GPM) Earth-science spacecraft without a hitch Feb. 27, setting up unprecedented coverage from space of rain and snowfall from a slot in the sun-synchronous “A-train” satellite constellation. Launch of the GPM “core observatory” came at 1:37 p.m. EST (3:37 a.m. Feb. 28 at the launch site on Tanegashima Island in Southeastern Japan), and its big H-2A rocket performed nominally. Two strap-on solid-fuel boosters and the LE-7A main-stage engine ...

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