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By Elaine Lies
TOKYO Aug 27 Japan's first new rocket in 12
years failed to lift off on Tuesday, dealing a potential blow to
hopes that Japan may be able to take a larger share of the
growing, multi-billion dollar satellite launch industry.
It was the second setback for the Epsilon rocket this month.
An earlier launch was postponed because of a computer
glitch. No word was immediately available on the cause of the
problem on Tuesday or when the launch might be tried again.
The countdown at Japan's Uchinoura launch centre was
broadcast live over the Internet, with commentary in English as
well as Japanese. But nothing happened at the end of the
JAXA, Japan's space agency, later said the launch was halted
with 19 seconds to go. Japanese media said an "irregularity" had
A three-stage rocket, the Epsilon - named for the fifth
letter of the Greek alphabet - is 24.4 metres (80 feet) high,
about half the size of Japan's workhorse H2A rocket. It weighs
91 tonnes and has been touted as a new, low-cost alternative.
The rocket was scheduled to carry a telescope into space for
observation of the solar system.
Analysts said it was not immediately clear how much of an
impact the failure would have on Japan's ambitions to cash in on
the international satellite launch industry.
"This was the first flight and it was already postponed once
and now will be postponed again," said Yukihiro Kumagai, an
analyst at Jefferies & Co securities in Tokyo.
"Inevitably, this will raise some questions, but overall it
is unlikely to have much influence," he added, noting that the
Epsilon is not scheduled for another flight until 2015.
The rocket's smaller size and a computer system that allows
it to perform its own system checks means it can be assembled
quickly, which is expected to cut both personnel and equipment
Launch control can be carried out using conventional desktop
computers, greatly reducing costs and making the launches more
mobile since they could take place at more sites.
U.S. companies had a monopoly on the commercial launch
business 30 years ago, but its hold has steadily declined, with
most of the business going to the France-based Arianespace, a
public-private European partnership that in 2012 reported
revenue of 1.3 billion euros.
The market has been shaken up by the recent entry of the
California-based Space Exploration Technologies, known as
Russia also markets a variety of rockets for space launches.
Its workhorse Soyuz spaceships have been the only vehicles
delivering crews to the ISS since the U.S. Space Shuttle fleet
was retired from service in 2011.
India and China also provide launch services to some extent.
(Reporting by Elaine Lies; Editing by Robert Birsel and Ron