Friday, July 15, 2011

Typhoon on course to strike Japan's space program

Powerful typhoon Ma-on is forecast to strike Japan Tuesday. (NASA)

A powerful typhoon is on a forecast path to make landfall over central Japan on Wednesday, a strike which could damage the heart of the island nation's space program.

Typhoon Ma-On is currently located several hundred miles to the southeast of Japan's southern tip at 20.6 North and 140.4 East.

Several tracking and communication antennas and launch sites for their unmanned space program could see damage from the storm's 140 m.p.h. winds, with gusts approaching 160 m.p.h.

Winds and high surf could begin pounding southern Japan's coastline as early as Monday, with the eye expected to make landfall on Tuesday night.

Japan's space agency JAXA communicates regularly with their lone astronaut aboard the orbiting International Space Station, Satoshi Furukawa.

Furukawa has been busy performing several experiments in the Japanese Kibo module, and most recently assisting the visiting crew of space shuttle Atlantis as they unstow fresh supplies and equipment.

SpaceLaunch News spoke with JAXA and NASA's Lead Shuttle Flight Director Kwatsi Alibaruho, and they had no comment on the impending storm's effect on contingency plans.

Weather forecasters in Tokyo are issuing updates on the storm's progress every six hours.

Ma-On's news comes today as Japan was jolted once again with a 5.5 magnitude earthquake.

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