Privately-built Japanese smallsat successfully tests new technology

Capitalism in space: A privately-built Japanese smallsat has successfully tested seven new technologies on a six-month long mission that was launched in January on Japan’s newest low-cost Epsilon rocket.

For the first time, the Japanese space agency turned over development of one of its satellites to a startup. Axelspace Co. developed RAPIS-1 for the agency is a short time period, going from design to launch in only about two years, the agency said. The satellite bus features a standardized interface that made attaching instruments and equipment easier. The mission equipment and bus were independently designed to prevent failures of the former from affecting the latter, JAXA said.

The article at the link provides details about the technologies tested, all of which increase significantly the capabilities of smallsats to replace standard larger and heavier satellites.

Japan’s Epsilon rocket successfully launches radar satellite

Japan today successfully completed its first launch of 2018, placing an experimental radar satellite into orbit that was built under a new cost saving approach.

The ASNARO satellites are designed to be small, lightweight spacecraft with masses around 900-1,300 pounds (400-600 kilograms) with a common spacecraft bus largely built from commercial-off-the-shelf parts and interchangeable payload sections. This commonality is designed to reduce cost and simplify mission planning and preparation.

Epsilon itself is also designed under the same approach. Both are part of Japan’s effort to streamline its space industry to make it more competitive.

The launch standings:

3 China
1 SpaceX
1 India
1 Japan

Japan’s Epsilon rocket launches successfully

The competition heats up: Japan today successfully launched its new Epsilon rocket on its second flight, placing in orbit a Japanese satellite designed to study the Van Allen belts.

The rocket is designed to launch Japan’s smaller satellites at a lower cost. During its first launch in 2013 JAXA made a big deal about how this rocket could be used to launch commercial satellites, but now I sense no interest in marketing it to the private sector.

Japan to the moon!

The competition heats up: Japan’s space agency has announced plans to send an unmanned lander to the Moon, as early as 2018, as part of a longer range plan to explore Mars.

They also intend to use their new Epsilon rocket to launch it.

Gee, I wonder if the successful efforts of India and China to send probes to both the Moon and Mars had some influence on this decision.

Fixing the space junk problem of the new Japanese Epsilon rocket.

The Japanese space agency has now promised to make sure that future launches of its new low cost Epsilon rocket will not leave its upper stages in orbit as space junk.

Epsilon’s first flight, which was a success, left two large objects — the rocket’s upper stage and a smaller post-boost stage — in an orbit with a perigee of some 800 kilometers, meaning neither will fall into the atmosphere for a century or longer. In the meantime, they will add to the population of orbiting garbage that poses a threat to active satellites traversing this orbit.

Japan has signed international agreements requiring them to not create space junk, so on future launches they are promising to make sure the upper stages are released in low enough orbits that they will quickly decay and burn up in the atmosphere.

It appears a programming error might have caused the scrub of Japan’s new Epsilon rocket launch yesterday.

It appears a programming error might have caused the scrub of Japan’s new Epsilon rocket launch yesterday.

The computer controlling the launch from the ground detected an abnormality in the rocket position but it was later found to be normal. “It may have been an elementary, but not serious, problem, ” said one of the experts, quoted by the Kyodo News agency. An inspection after the canceled launch found no abnormality with the attitude sensors mounted on the rocket or with the computer feeding the data to the ground, according to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).

This is a preliminary report, but sounds credible. The report also suggests that the Japanese are in no immediate hurry to launch but instead want to very carefully investigate the issue first. And as I said yesterday, this is really all good news for this new rocket.

The first launch of Japan’s new Epsilon rocket was scrubbed today at T-19 seconds.

The first launch of Japan’s new Epsilon rocket was scrubbed today at T-19 seconds.

The press releases are very unclear, which is typical for the Japanese. From my perspective, this scrub is hardly a disaster for a new rocket, and is in fact a good sign. Better for the rocket systems to recognize a problem and abort than for it to launch anyway and fail.