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Japan Launches 'Affordable' Space Program Operated by Two Laptops

Update Date: Sep 16, 2013 02:25 PM EDT
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Japan's space agency launched the rocket into space on Saturday which was coordinated from two laptops at a control center manned by just eight people. The Epsilon-1 carried with it the Spectroscopic Planet Observatory for Recognition of Interaction of Atmosphere (SPRINT-A) remote observation telescope.

The launch took place at 2 PM local time at the Uchinoura Space Center and was a successful launch and flight. After about 61 minutes, Epsilon-1 separated from the telescope, according to Japan Daily Press.

Japan's space agency Jaxa says the Epsilon cost $37 million to develop, half the cost of its predecessor.

"We would like to express our profound appreciation for the cooperation and support of all related personnel and organizations that helped contribute to the launch of the Epsilon-1," the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency stated in a press release.

Spectators at Kagoshima and a public viewing site in Tokyo cheered as the launch vehicle blasted off into space. In Tokyo, a huge screen showed the rocket "lift off in a cloud of white smoke and orange flame," AFP reports.

The SPRINT-A satellite was renamed Hisaki after reaching orbit, and its name has a double meaning. First, Hisaki is the name of a cape at the tip of the Tsushiro Peninsula in the Uchinoura area and resembles the satellite's shape, JAXA officials said.

The name is also a combination of "saki" (Japanese for "beyond") and "Hi" (the "sun"), because the spacecraft's targets are "beyond the sun," they added.

Epsilon-1 is Japan's first new rocket in 12 years, and represents Japan's attempt at joining the space industry in an affordable fashion, Reuters explains.

"The successful launch moved Japan a step closer to its goal of cashing in on the international satellite launch industry," according to the report.

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