TOPJapan launches “low cost” rocket

Japan launches “low cost” rocket

By Alec Jordan

Japan has successfully launched its newest solid-fuel rocket which the nation hopes will be a breakthrough for cheaper missions of sending satellites into orbit.

The three-stage Epsilon, the first in a new generation of space vehicles, lifted off from Uchinoura Space Center in Kagoshima Prefecture on Saturday.

About an hour later, its payload, the SPRINT-A, billed by Japan as the first space telescope designed to observe other planets was successfully put into orbit, according to Mari Harada, a spokeswoman at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).

The Epsilon was originally set to launch last month but was aborted 19 seconds before planned blast off due to a technical glitch.

JAXA said the Epsilon costs less to build and is about half the size of previous generation space vehicles. Equipped with artificial intelligence, the Epsilon needs only eight people at the launch site, compared with 150 people needed for earlier launches.

The M-5, Epsilon’s predecessor, was decommissioned in 2006 due to increasing costs.

The Epsilon is also the first new rocket design for Japan since the H2A was introduced in 2001.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe lauded the Epsilon’s launch and Japan’s advancing aerospace technology.

“I hope that this success will allow us to establish autonomy in the field of space transportation systems and trigger the country’s further development of space technology, which will lead to further economic growth,” Abe said in a written statement.

By: Maesie Bertumen

Image: nvslive/Flickr