Japan's New Rocket Blasts Off in Laptop-Controlled Launch

W460

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 center.

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

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

The three-stage Epsilon -- 24 meters (79-feet) long and weighing 91 tons -- was scheduled to release the "SPRINT-A" telescope at an altitude of 1,000 kilometers (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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