- SS-520-5, JAXA
- 2,600 kg kilogram(s)
- Japan (Uchinoura Space Center)
The smallest rocket to successfully place a payload into Low Earth Orbit is SS-520-5 – which measures 9.65 m (31 ft 7.92 in) tall, 52 cm (1 ft 8 in) in diameter and has a mass of only 2,600 kg (5,732 lbs). This tiny rocket was launched at 2:03 p.m. (JST; 05:03 UTC) on 3 February 2018 from the Japanese Space Agency's Uchinoura Space Center in Kagoshima Prefecture, Japan. It carried a 3-kg (2 lb 8.7 oz) CubeSat called TRICOM-1R (which was renamed "Tasuki" once it was in orbit).
The SS-520 is the three-stage 'big-brother' of the S-520 sounding rocket (a sounding rocket is a sub-orbital rocket designed to carry scientific instruments for atmospheric research). It has less than 1% of the mass of the Soyuz rockets used to launch astronauts to the ISS, and is dwarfed even by small rockets like the Rocket Labs Electron (which has a mass of around 10 tonnes).
SS-520-5 was JAXA's second attempt to use this system to place a payload in orbit. The previous attempt (SS-520-4) failed on 14 January 2017, destroying the first version of the TRICOM-1 satellite in the process.