Japan has successfully launched a new solid - fuel rocket carrying a telescope for observation of the solar system from space, following last month’s setback.
The rocket lifted off at 2.00 p.m. (0500GMT) on Saturday from the Uchinoura Space Center in Kagoshima, southwestern Japan. A previous launch scheduled for August 27 was suspended nearly 20 seconds before countdown after a ground control computer falsely detected a positional abnormality. Launched with only two laptop computers in a pared-down command center, Epsilon released the "SPRINT-A" telescope at an altitude of 1,000 kilometers (620 miles). SPRINT-A is the world’s first space telescope which is designed to observe other planets including Venus, Mars and Jupiter from its orbit around Earth, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA said. The three-stage Epsilon, which is about 24 meters (80 feet) tall and weighs 91 tons, is almost half the size of Japan's H2A rocket, and a successor to the solid-fuel M-5 rocket. JAXA also noted that the Epsilon costs about 3.8 billion yen (USD40 million), which is one-third the cost of the liquid-fuelled H2A rocket. The smaller size of the new rocket and a computer system that permits it to perform its own systems checks means Epsilon is capable of being assembled rapidly, enabling operators to decrease personnel and equipment costs. Only eight workers were engaged in the launch operation of the small-sized rocket at the control center, compared with some 150 people usually required when Tokyo launches its mainstream H2A rocket. Japan is hopeful that the new rocket, which is expected to expand the scope of the country’s space missions, becomes competitive in the global space business.