JAXA’s Epsilon rocket launch was scrubbed today, just 19 seconds before launch. The automated safety check system aborted the automated countdown for the rocket’s ignition sequence.
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) originally had a launch scheduled for their new Epsilon rocket for Aug. 22, but was postponed. The rocket launch was rescheduled for today, Aug. 27, to launch a new planetary observation telescope into orbit. Yet, as the automated countdown nearly reached launch time, the automated safety checks scrubbed the launch. The reason for this is still being investigated.
The Epsilon rocket is JAXA’s newest rocket design. The intention of which is to make launching satellites cheaper and faster. Part of this innovation is due to more automated processes, the same automated processes which scrubbed today’s Epsilon launch.
Epsilon, a three stage solid propulsion rocket, stands at just 78 feet, half the size of the current workhorse the H2A. Epsilon weighs in at 91 tons, which is designed to carry payloads up to 2,646 pounds into orbit. With new carbon materials, which make the Epsilon lighter, it is hoped to launch Epsilon for $38.5 million instead of the $76 million it cost to get the previously retired M-V rocket into Earth orbit. The M-V was retired in 2006, but the two upper stages of the new Epsilon rocket were taken from the retired M-V’s design.
Another innovation of the Epsilon rocket is its quick assembly time. To provide a bench mark, the retired M-V rocket took 42 days to be assembled on site in order to launch. Epsilon, which has its major pieces pre-assembled and once the first stage of the rocket arrives, it can be ready for launch in 7 days. Along with its highly automated systems, the Epsilon could be controlled from a single laptop, and with Epsilon’s quick assembly time JAXA hopes that it will make space travel easier as well as cheaper. The current H2A costs about three times more than Epsilon and takes about six times longer to assemble for launch.
Today’s launch was intended to send the first ever planetary observation telescope into space. JAXA’s Spectroscopic Planet Observatory for Recognition of Interaction of Atmosphere, or the SPRINT-A, was set to begin its scientific mission of studying the atmosphere’s of Venus, Mars, and Jupiter in the hopes of better understanding our own. The basic permitters of the scientific mission of SPRINT-A is to understand atmospheric bleed to understand how our atmosphere formed.
Ichita Yamamoto, Japan’s space police minister, stated that today’s aborted launch was unfortunate, but that it does not change Japan’s intention to set Epsilon as the centerpiece to Japan’s space business, as reported by auburnpub.com.
As Japan continues to improve upon its space program and rocket launches, something that began in the early 1950’s, we may see launches into space become more ordinary. Despite NASA’s funding being cut and America no longer standing in the center of the space movement, with private innovation and governments like Japan looking to make things more commonplace and simpler; we may see an ever increasing rise in space exploration and research in the years ahead.
By Iam Bloom