How Japan's Epsilon rocket take cares of itself

Japan's Epsilon rocket, which launched carried a satellite into space Saturday, automatically performs its own health checks instead of using human operators. 

Japan's new Epsilon rocket launches on its debut mission from Uchinoura Space Center on Sept. 14 carrying the SPRINT-A (Hisaki) space telescope, a Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency satellite designed to study the planets of the solar system.
An artist's conception of the SPRINT-A spacecraft.

Japan's brand-new Epsilon rocket soared into space Saturday (Sept. 14) in a debut launch that carried a novel satellite into orbit to gaze at Venus, Mars and Jupiter.

The three-stage Epsilon rocket launched into orbit at 2 p.m. Japan Standard Time from the Uchinoura Space Center in southern Japan after a three-week delay due to a technical glitch. The rocket is designed to lower the cost of space launches by using automated systems to perform its own health checks instead of relying on human operators.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency initially attempted to launch the Epsilon rocket on Aug. 27, but a computer synchronization issue forced launch controllers to abort the test flight 19 seconds before liftoff. But Saturday, the high-tech rocket performed flawlessly, launching the new SPRINT-A satellite designed to study the magnetic fields and atmospheres of solar system planets.  [See photos of Japan's debut Epsilon rocket launch]

"The satellite is currently in good health," JAXA officials said in a statement. The satellite separated from the Epsilon rocket about 61 minutes after liftoff.

The SPRINT-A satellite, short for the Spectroscopic Planet Observatory for Recognition of Interaction of Atmosphere, will observe the atmospheres of Jupiter, Venus and Mars in ultraviolet light. The satellite weighs 771 pounds (350 kilograms) and is expected to spend one year on its primary mission.

Japan's Epsilon rocket is a 91-ton solid-fueled booster that stands 78 feet (24 meters) tall and can launch satellite weighing up to 2,646 pounds (1,200 kilograms) into low-Earth orbit.

The rocket's first stage uses a solid rocket motor based on the boosters used on Japan's liquid-fueled H-IIA launch vehicle, while the second and third stages are based on Japan's M-V rocket, which was retired in 2006. JAXA officials have said they estimated Epsilon's first flight to cost 3.8 billion yen ($38.5 million) – almost half the 7.5 billion yen ($76 million) cost for the M-V rocket.

"We would like to express our profound appreciation for the cooperation and support of all related personnel and organizations that helped contribute to the launch of the Epsilon-1," JAXA officials said.

The SPRINT-A satellite was renamed Hisaki after reaching orbit, and its name has a double meaning. First, Hisaki is the name of a cape at the tip of the Tsushiro Peninsula in the Uchinoura area and resembles the satellite's shape, JAXA officials said. The name is also a combination of "saki" (Japanese for "beyond") and "Hi" (the "sun"), because the spacecraft's targets are "beyond the sun," they added.

Email Tariq Malik at or follow him @tariqjmalikand Google+. Follow us @Spacedotcom,Facebookand Google+. Original article on

Copyright 2013, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to How Japan's Epsilon rocket take cares of itself
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today