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Japan launches Epsilon rocket with Sprint-A telescope

Tokyo, Sep 16 (): Japan successfully launched a new solid-fuel rocket, new Epsilon carrying a telescope from southern Japan, on Saturday. The three-stage Epsilon will be a cheaper and more efficient way of sending satellites into the orbit. 

The Epsilon lifted off from a space center on Japan’s southern main island of Kyushu at 2.00 p.m. (0500GMT) on Saturday. The Epsilon launch scheduled for August 27 was postponed nearly 20 seconds due to a technical glitch.

The Epsilon is only half the size of the country’s liquid-fuelled H2-A rocket which was introduced in 2001. The Epsilon is the successor to the M-5 rocket, which was retired in 2006 due to its high cost. JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) said the Epsilon costs about 3.8 billion yen ($40 million), one-third the cost of the H2A.

The three-stage Epsilon, that is 24 metres long and weighing 91 tonnes released the SPRINT-A telescope. SPRINT-A is the world’s first space telescope which is aimed to observe other planets including Mars, Venus and Jupiter in ultraviolet light from its orbit around Earth. The satellite weighs 350 kilograms and is expected to spend one year on its primary mission.

The space agency confirmed that the Sprint-A telescope was successfully released in orbit 1,000 km from Earth’s surface.

The launch team made of just eight people contrasts the 150 personnel needed for prior launches, coordinated from a laptop computer-based command centre.

Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency President Naoki Okumura told a televised news conference, “It was so thrilling that I was almost speechless, the challenge we had to face makes the excitement even greater.”

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in a statement, “It demonstrates Japanese space technology is highly reliable.”

The event was also transmitted on the Internet.

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