The successful launch of the Epsilon rocket was carried out on the initiative of the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), which undertook the launch of 9 light demonstration satellites, including a device designed to test the method of removing space debris. The rocket launch took place on October 8 at 9:55 Japanese time (JST – 2:55 AM Polish time). The launch was carried out at the Uchinoura cosmodrome, located in the south of Japan.
It was the third attempt to take off the mission in question – two previous attempts had been canceled. The flight was originally scheduled to take place on October 1, but due to technical problems with the ground infrastructure, it was put on hold for a minute before ignition. The second attempt took place on October 7, but also did not take place – due to unfavorable weather conditions.
The third attempt was successful, and on November 9 it was possible to launch the satellites into an orbit less than 600 km above the Earth. The rocket released its initial payload in the form of the Rapid Innovative Payload Demonstration Satellite No. 2 (RAISE-2) approximately 52 minutes after take-off. The rest of the eight-object package was released about an hour later.
The RAISE-2 satellite, built by Mitsubishi Electric Corp. and Tohoku University, will test six different space technologies, including a small sensor called MARIN, designed to measure the position, altitude and speed of passing satellites.
The largest of the demonstration devices launched is DRUMS (Debris Removal Unprecedented Micro Satellite), a device designed for the test of capturing pieces of space debris in order to remove them from the space environment. With a mass of 62 kilograms, the satellite was built by the Japanese company Kawasaki Heavy Industries. DRUMS, which is a technology demonstrator, is equipped with a small accompanying charge, which, when released, is to be tentatively intercepted, thus demonstrating the operation of the intercepting instrument.
The vast majority, as many as 8 of the 9 satellites launched, were produced by Japanese companies and universities, while one of them was designed by the Vietnamese Space Agency (VNSC). We are talking about a small satellite called NanoDragon, i.e. the first Vietnamese object (weighing 3.8 kg), which is to help improve satellite navigation systems. In addition to the above-mentioned devices, Epsilon 5 also launched the following satellites: HIBARI, Z-Sat, TeikyoSat-4, ASTERISC, ARICA and KOSEN-1.
The four previous launches of the solid propellant Epsilon rocket took place in 2013, 2016, 2018 and 2019, respectively, all with success. The recent launch was the second launch under the same program, the first mission of which was in 2019 and its main payload was RAISE-1. The JAXA program for demonstrating innovative satellite technologies also aims to provide universities and private companies, mainly in Japan, with the possibility of conducting experiments in space.