UK & World News
Japan's Laptop-Controlled Space Rocket Launch
Japan has sent a rocket into space with a launch co-ordinated from two laptops in a control centre manned by a crew of just eight people.
Up to 1,000 people gathered at a public viewing site in Tokyo to see Epsilon - the nation's first new rocket in 12 years - successfully blast-off into space from the Uchinoura Space Centre in Kagoshima, in southwestern Japan.
Lift-off had originally been scheduled for August 27 but was aborted with just seconds to go following a computer glitch.
Epsilon - which is carrying a telescope to observe the solar system - was launched at half the production and launch costs of the previous M-5 rocket at 3.8bn yen (£24m) because of a new computer system that can perform its own checks and can be assembled quickly.
A much smaller crew was involved, compared with the about 150 people needed when Japan has previously launched its mainstream H2-A rocket.
Epsilon is half the size of the H2-A and a successor to the solid fuel M-5 rocket that was retired in 2006 due to its high cost.
Japan hopes it will be a cheaper and more efficient method of sending satellites into space, paving the way for a more competitive operation in a growing, international industry.
The three-stage Epsilon - 24 metres long and weighing 91 tonnes - released the SPRINT-A telescope at an altitude of about 620 miles as planned.
It has been hailed as the world's first space telescope for remote observation of planets including Venus, Mars and Jupiter from its orbit around Earth, by Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).
Epsilon has also been equipped with artificial intelligence "for the first time in the world" that allows autonomous launch checks by the rocket itself, according to JAXA.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the success of a genuinely homemade rocket was a fruit of Japan's expertise and technology in space development.
"It demonstrates Japanese space technology is highly reliable," he said in a statement. He added that the success would lead to a self-sustainable space transportation system and to help Japan's economic growth.