Japan's new rocket blasts off in laptop-controlled launch


Japan's new solid-fuel rocket successfully blasted off Saturday carrying a telescope for remote observation of planets in a launch coordinated from a laptop computer-based command center.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) launched the Epsilon rocket from the Uchinoura Space Center in Kagoshima at 2 p.m.

Spectators cheered in Kagoshima as well as at a public viewing site in Tokyo.

More than 900 people who gathered at the Tokyo event clapped and took photos with cellphones as a huge screen showed the rocket lift off in a cloud of white smoke and orange flame.

The three-stage Epsilon -- 24 meters long and weighing 91 tons -- released the SPRINT-A telescope at an altitude of about 1,000 kilometers as scheduled, JAXA said.

SPRINT-A is the world's first space telescope for remote observation of planets including Venus, Mars and Jupiter from its orbit around Earth, according to the agency.

Lift-off had originally been scheduled for Aug 27 but the first attempt was suspended with just seconds to go after a ground control computer falsely detected a positional abnormality.

Japan hopes the rocket, launched with just two laptop computers in a pared-down command center, will become competitive in the global space business.

The Epsilon is about half the size of the nation's liquid-fueled H2-A rocket, and a successor to the solid fuel M-5 rocket that was retired in 2006 due to its high cost.

The small-sized rocket is equipped with artificial intelligence "for the first time in the world" that allows autonomous launch checks by the rocket itself, JAXA has said.

At the control center only eight workers were engaged in the launch operation, compared with some 150 people usually needed when Japan launches its mainstream H2-A rocket.

The agency has halved the production and launch costs to 3.8 billion yen ($37 million) compared with the previous M-5 rocket.

© (C) 2013 AFP

©2024 GPlusMedia Inc.

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Would love to see one of these launches.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

Congrats! Glad they fixed the glitch.

4 ( +7 / -3 )

Now that is pretty cool!

6 ( +7 / -1 )

Payload separation was also successful. Great stuff.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

Awesome. Like i said when it did not launch, it was not a failure. They had a problem that was detected before the rocket became a failure. Its a success!

8 ( +8 / -0 )

haha... there will be no competition against epsilon since it can deliver a lot of cargo and the is only required a laptop to operate.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Thinking about how it can be launched with a laptop...what are the chances of someone hacking that laptop and controling the rocket?

2 ( +2 / -0 )


BTW- I heard that today's launch was scheduled for 1.45p, but was delayed for 15 minutes because a ship/boat was in the area. Any data on that? Thx. NN.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

This looks like it could be a break through. Congrats Japan!

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Congratulations JAXA! The video of the Epsilon launch can be watched here, it's really amazing:

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I'm sorry, but so what? Yeah, space is great! How about getting something done in Fukushimaand Tohoku? Japan reaches for the stars while it poisons the pacific and 5 million people live in temporary shacks.. Nice!

-8 ( +1 / -9 )

Lovely rocket and great mission. Glad to see your finally using computers !

0 ( +1 / -1 )

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