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

AFP , Saturday 14 Sep 2013

Japan's new solid-fuel rocket blasts off following an earlier delay carrying a telescope for remote observation of planets

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

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) launched the Epsilon rocket from the Uchinoura Space Centre in Kagoshima, southwestern Japan, at 2:00pm (0500 GMT), live footage showed.

Lift-off had originally been scheduled for 27 August, 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 centre, will become competitive in the global space business.

The three-stage Epsilon — 24 metres (79-feet) long and weighing 91 tons — was scheduled to release the "SPRINT-A" telescope at an altitude of 1,000 kilometres (620 miles).

JAXA is expected to comment whether the launch was a success after confirming the release of the telescope.

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 JAXA.

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