OSAKA, Sept. 14 (Xinhua) -- Japan's space agency JAXA announced on Saturday afternoon that it successfully launched its first new rocket in 12 years, the Epsilon, from the Uchinoura Space Center in the southwestern Japanese prefecture of Kagoshima.
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency said that the new solid- fuel rocket lifted off at 2:00 p.m. local time to carry a planet- observing satellite, and the satellite has successfully gone into orbit around the earth since it was detached in the final stage of the rocket launch.
According to local reports including one by Nippon Hoso Kyokai (NHK), Japan's public broadcaster, the 24-meter-roclet Epsilon, which is about half the size of Japan's chief H2A type rocket, can carry 1.2 tons to boost scientific payloads into low Earth orbit. The reports also noted that JAXA could succeed in reducing its launch costs to 3.8 billion yen, (about 38 million U.S. dollars), roughly one-third of an H2A launch, developing, for example, automated part of the inspection process to cut costs.
The reports, meanwhile, said that thousands of people gathered in several observation points near the space center in Kagoshima to watch Saturday's lift-off, and nearby souvenir shops and restaurants have enjoyed brisk business since the morning hours on the day.
JAXA had initially planned to launch the Epsilon on Aug. 27, but the launch was postponed due to a technical problem.