Japan's bid to launch world's smallest satellite-carrying rocket fails

Melba UnderwoodJan 17, 2017

The Epsilon-2 three-stage rocket is part of a new generation of solid propellant rockets and makes it possible for launch costs to be reduced up to one third, according to JAXA.

JAXA terminated a satellite launch in mid-flight Sunday after a communications malfunction forced the space agency to abort ignition of the host rocket's second stage. But Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency authorities declared on Sunday that the mission failed.

SS-520-4 Rocket design is 31 foot tall.i.e. 9.5 meters and its expanded upon a two-stage sounding rocket that was capable of lifting experiments to space for a few minutes.

Carrying a miniature satellite for observation of the Earth's surface, the No. 4 vehicle of the SS-520 series lifted off at 8:33 a.m. from the agency's Uchinoura Space Center in Kagoshima Prefecture, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency said.

But Japanese officials said a problem prevented telemetry from the rocket from reaching the ground in the final phase of the first stage's half-minute burn, and a command to ignite the second stage was not issued. The rocket and its tiny payload then tumbled into the sea.

The rocket, about 10 metres long and 50 centimeters in diameter, was carrying a small satellite to take images of the earth and gather other data.

"The cause of the failure is not known at all yet", Shinya Matsuura, an expert on JAXA, told The Japan Times.

While JAXA is the first to have tested out one of these specialized nano-satellite launchers, it is not the only organization developing orbital launch capabilities specifically for microsatellites, especially the popular CubeSat spacecraft platform.

As Japanese media outlet Nikkei points out, the use of ultra-compact satellites is growing, prompting a number of companies to develop low-priced launch vehicles using mass-produced electronic components.

The No. 4 vehicle carried the TRICOM1 satellite, developed by the University of Tokyo, measuring 10 by 10 by 35 cm and weighing around 3 kg.

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