Japan’s first new rocket in 12 years failed to lift off; 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

Japan’s newest rocket fails to lift off

Tue, Aug 27 2013

By Elaine Lies

TOKYO (Reuters) – 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 countdown.

JAXA, Japan’s space agency, later said the launch was halted with 19 seconds to go. Japanese media said an “irregularity” had been detected.

A three-stage rocket, the Epsilon – named for the fifth letter of the Greek alphabet – is 24.4 meters (80 feet) high, about half the size of Japan’s workhorse H2A rocket. It weighs 91 tons 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 costs.

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 SpaceX.

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.

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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