The next generation solid-fuel rocket we have been researching as a successor to the M-V Launch Vehicle was renamed the “Epsilon” Launch Vehicle in the summer of 2010 when it also entered the full-scale development stage. It was a perfect timing that Epsilon started its full-scale development just after “HAYABUSA” returned to the Earth carrying samples from the asteroid “Itokawa”. I feel the presence of some divine force there acting to support “Epsilon”. The first model of the Epsilon is planned to launch a small scale planet observing telescope, SPRINT-A. For future space development, it is equally important to launch small and responsive satellites, rather than just launching large-scale satellites aboard the H-IIA and H-IIB Launch Vehicles. It is the Epsilon that will perfectly respond to such needs.
Opening of a New Space Era
The Epsilon is the integration of the achievements of the solid-fuel rockets, obtained since the Pencil rocket era, and also marks a historical turning point. Up until now, the performance of a rocket has been evaluated simply by the launch capacity and the orbital accuracy. However, in this coming new space era, if we hope to make the access to space much easier, more sophisticated factors are required. The Epsilon is not only trying to enhance the advantages of conventional solid-fuel rockets but also develop into a next-generation rocket to meet the demands of the future. In other words, we are trying to make rocket launches much simpler and ordinary events. One of the challenges in achieving this goal is to develop advanced technologies like an automatic check-out system by making the rocket intelligent as well as the mobile launch control system. A large control room could be integrated into a single laptop PC. It looks like a science fiction fantasy has become a reality. We have already successfully completed the examination on a prototype model of the mobile launch control system and the real model will be realized soon.
Uchinoura, home of Japan’s solid fuel rockets, was selected as the launch site
In January 2011, Uchinoura, “a sacred place” for Japan’s solid-fuel rockets, was decided as the Epsilon rocket’s launch site. The Epsilon is driven by the combined efforts of the solid-fuel rocket supporters and the Uchinoura supporters, so I’m very happy about that. Originally, the Uchinoura Space Center was renowned throughout the world for its unique compactness, and it will be more improved with a mobile launch control system. With this impressive combination of a simple structure solid-fuel rocket and a compact launch site, the Epsilon will undertake a mission to reduce the threshold of space for everyone. This will be a perfect development toward its first flight in 2013. I would like to move forward together with space fans, not only with JAXA and manufacturers. Please continue to support the Epsilon.
(March, 2011 Updated.)