Japan successfully launches Epsilon-5 rocket with 9 satellites

The Yomiuri Shimbun
The fifth Epsilon solid-fuel rocket is launched at 9:55 a.m. from JAXA’s Uchinoura Space Center in Kimotsuki in Kagoshima Prefecture.

KIMOTSUKI, Kagoshima (Jiji Press) — The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA, on Tuesday successfully launched its fifth Epsilon solid-fuel rocket carrying nine small satellites.

The rocket was launched at 9:55 a.m. from JAXA’s Uchinoura Space Center in Kimotsuki in Kagoshima Prefecture.

JAXA initially planned to launch the Epsilon-5 rocket Oct. 1, but this was canceled just before the scheduled liftoff time due to a glitch in ground radar equipment. The launch was then postponed twice because of unfavorable weather conditions.

The rocket, which is 26 meters long and weighs 96 tons, injected the rapid innovative payload demonstration satellite-2, or RAISE-2, into orbit about 570 kilometers above Earth around 50 minutes after the liftoff. The other eight satellites were released later. The feat came after all four previous Epsilon rockets were launched successfully.

RAISE-2 carries parts and equipment developed by entities including Mitsubishi Electric Corp. and Tohoku University to test whether they can operate in space.

The remaining satellites, chosen publicly, include one developed by Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd. to conduct a space debris removal test and another developed jointly by 10 Japanese national technical colleges for an antenna deployment test aimed at observing radio waves from Jupiter.

The latest launch was part of JAXA’s “innovative satellite technology demonstration” program, designed to provide universities and private companies with opportunities to conduct experiments for parts and equipment in a bid to expand space utilization.

This was the second satellite launch under the program. In the first such launch, seven satellites were released from the Epsilon-4 rocket in January 2019.

The launch of Epsilon-5 was postponed by about four minutes. This was partly to help the rocket avoid flying near the Crew Dragon space capsule that was on its way to Earth to bring astronauts including Japan’s Akihiko Hoshide back from the International Space Station, according to JAXA.