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For the Japanese singer, see Halca (singer).
General information
NSSDC ID 1997-005A
Organization ISAS
Major contractors NEC Toshiba Space Systems
Launch date 12 February 1997 at 04:50:00 UTC
Launch site Kagoshima Space Center
Launch vehicle M-5-1
Mission length 6 years, 8 months
Mass 830 kilograms (1,830 lb)
Type of orbit Elliptical
Orbit height
  • 21,400 km (apogee)
  • 560km (perigee)
Orbit period 6.3 hours
Wavelength 1.6 GHz, 5.0 GHz
Diameter 8 meters
Website HALCA

HALCA (Highly Advanced Laboratory for Communications and Astronomy), also known for its project name VSOP (VLBI Space Observatory Programme), or the code name MUSES-B (for the second of the Mu Space Engineering Spacecraft series), is a Japanese 8 meter diameter radio telescope satellite which was used for Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI). It was the first such space-borne dedicated VLBI mission.

It was placed in a highly elliptical orbit with an apogee altitude of 21,400 km and a perigee altitude of 560 km, with an orbital period of approximately 6.3 hours. This orbit allowed imaging of celestial radio sources by the satellite in conjunction with an array of ground-based radio telescopes, such that both good (u,v) plane coverage and very high resolution were obtained.

Although designed to observe in three frequency bands: 1.6 GHz, 5.0 GHz, and 22 GHz, it was found that the sensitivity of the 22 GHz band had severely degraded after orbital deployment, probably caused by vibrational deformation of the dish shape at launch, thus limiting observations to the 1.6 GHz and 5.0 GHz bands.

HALCA was launched in February 1997 from Kagoshima Space Center, and made its final VSOP observations in October 2003, far exceeding its 3-year predicted lifespan, before the loss of attitude control. All operations were officially ended in November 2005. [1]

A follow-up mission ASTRO-G (VSOP-2) was planned, with a proposed launch date of 2012, but the project was eventually cancelled in 2011 due to increasing costs and the difficulties of achieving its science goals. It was expected to achieve resolutions up to ten times higher and up to ten times greater sensitivity than its predecessor HALCA.

The cancellation of ASTRO-G leaves the Russian Spektr-R mission as the only currently operational space VLBI facility.


  • Observations of hydroxyl masers and pulsars at 1.6 GHz
  • Detection of interference fringes for quasar PKS1519-273 between HALCA and terrestrial radio telescopes
  • Routines imaging of quasars and radio galaxies etc. by means of experimental VLBI observations with HALCA and terrestrial radio telescope networks


External links[edit]