It’s too windy for Japanese supersonic jet, Australian test postponed until Sunday

Japan's space agency has postponed until Sunday a test flight of a supersonic jet in the Australian Outback because of strong winds, a spokesman said Friday.

The flight of the prototype SST, or supersonic transport, has twice been delayed because of stormy weather over the Woomera rocket range in the remote north of South Australia state.

Kenichi Saito, a spokesman for JAXA, Japan's space agency, said the launch scheduled for Saturday will now take place at 7 a.m. Sunday (2030 GMT Saturday).

"We've decided to launch Sunday because of the very strong wind," Saito told The Associated Press. "It should be good weather on Sunday."

Wind speeds were exceeding 10 meters (33 feet) a second Friday and needed to be less than seven meters (23 feet) a second for the test to take place, he said.

JAXA had initially hoped to launch Friday and has until Oct. 15 to make the flight due to contractual constraints.

The jet will be released at an altitude of about 20 kilometers (12 miles) and will reach the speed of Mach 2 twice the speed of sound and collect information about its aerodynamics.

The 11.5-meter-long (38-foot-long) craft, developed by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd., will float back to Earth by parachute after the 15-minute flight. If the US$10 million (Ђ8.4 million) experiment works, JAXA plans to follow it up with similar tests of a jet-powered craft.

A test in July 2002 ended in a fiery explosion, but officials are confident about the upcoming test.

Japan lags well behind the United States, France and Russia in the aerospace field and could use a breakthrough in supersonic flight to boost its competitiveness.

Though flying faster than sound is costly and causes sonic booms that can shatter windows, a supersonic flight from Tokyo to Los Angeles takes only about four hours, reports the AP


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