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In How common is it to dedicate rocket launches to popular causes? I mentioned a launch for which I could not remember the details. I'd seen photos of a rocket, Japanese I believe, that would be launched to space, and on it were painted manga characters.

Is it possible to track this down and explain it's five W's?

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You may be thinking of the amateur rocket created by the Social Media Satellite Development Project(SOMESAT) group, whose stated goal is to launch the popular Vocaloid character Hatsune Miku into space.

On September 2009 in Nevada, SOMESAT participated in the eXtreme Performance Rocket Ships(XPRS) competition with a rocket decorated with an illustration of deformed Miku:

SOMESAT's rocket with Miku decoration

The rocket flew to a height of 1.5km before returning so unfortunately can't be said to have reached space.

Tangentially to the question SOMESAT was also one of several public organizations who contributed to a message plaque attached to JAXA's Venus Climate Orbiter Akatsuki. The image below shows a test print of the panels in the background.

Test prints of panels on akatsuki

The panels feature Hatsune Miku and was launched into space with Akatsuki on the 21st May 2010.

Image Sources:
https://www.itmedia.co.jp/news/articles/0910/08/news011.html
https://www.itmedia.co.jp/news/articles/1002/23/news024.html

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  • $\begingroup$ Excellent find! I'm remembering something that presumably was space-worthy; at least crossing the Karman line if not also capable of putting something (small) in orbit, but I really like this possibility, thanks! $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Commented May 19, 2020 at 11:52
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    $\begingroup$ found it! $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Commented Jun 6, 2020 at 12:08
  • $\begingroup$ Fun fact, Japanese "astronauts" are called animenauts. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 6, 2020 at 18:22
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Space Brothers (manga) Source from Space Brothers (manga)


Found it! Phys.org's Japan rocket with manga art launches satellite into space:

Japan's H-2A rocket, carrying a Himawari-9 weather satellite, (was) launched on Tanegashima Island on November 2, 2016

Japan's domestically developed mainstay rocket carried two pieces of manga artwork originally drawn by Chuya Koyama, known for his comic book on two brothers who dream about becoming astronauts.

"We believe it's the first time in the world to launch a rocket with manga art on it," said Hirokazu Kosada of Young Astronauts Club Japan, the foundation that organised the rocket art project.

The artworks were created by using 30,000 digital images of photographs and paintings sent by children across Japan, according to Kosada.

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above: screen shots from the JAXA video "静止気象衛星「ひまわり9号」/H-IIAロケット31号機 打ち上げライブ中継 |The live broadcast of the Himawari-9/H-IIA F31 launch"

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Perhaps you are thinking of the rockets of Interstellar Technologies? You asked a question about then a while ago, and their rockets have manga-esque logos.

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  • $\begingroup$ I definitely don't remember all my questions, thanks! But the one I'm remembering really had manga cartoon characters painted on the side prominently. I don't see that in the images in my previous question. Still, it could be a different launch by the same company. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Commented May 19, 2020 at 3:55
  • $\begingroup$ found it! $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Commented Jun 6, 2020 at 12:08

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