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Launch of 9 Japanese satellites scrubbed due to strong winds

A Japanese Epsilon rocket stands poised to lift off from Uchinoura Space Center on Oct. 6, 2021. The launch was scrubbed due to strong upper-level winds.
A Japanese Epsilon rocket stands poised to lift off from Uchinoura Space Center on Oct. 6, 2021. The launch was scrubbed due to strong upper-level winds. (Image credit: JAXA)

Nine small Japanese satellites will have to wait a bit longer yet to reach orbit.

An Epsilon rocket was scheduled to lift off from Japan's Uchinoura Space Center tonight (Oct. 6) at 8:51 p.m. EDT (0051 GMT on Oct. 7). However, strong upper-level winds caused launch managers to scrub for the day.

It was the second nixed liftoff for this Epsilon. The rocket was originally supposed to fly on Sept. 30, but that try was scrubbed late due to issues with a ground station. It was not immediately clear when the next launch attempt will be.

Whenever it flies, Epsilon will carry to orbit the Rapid Innovative Payload Demonstration Satellite 2, or RAISE 2 for short, and eight tagalong spacecraft for the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). 

Related: The history of rockets

As its full name suggests, the 240-pound (110 kilograms) RAISE 2 is a technology demonstrator. The spacecraft, which was built by Mitsubishi Electric Corp., will test six different space technologies, including a small sensor called MARIN designed to gauge the position, altitude and velocity of orbiting satellites, JAXA officials said.

The other eight satellites, which were manufactured by a variety of Japanese companies and universities, are even smaller than the 3.3-foot-wide (1 meter) RAISE 2. Four of the rideshare spacecraft weigh 8.8 pounds (4 kg) or less, and the other four tip the scales at between 101 pounds and 137 pounds (46 to 62 kg). (Those satellites will become weightless in orbit, of course, but they'll still have mass.) 

The heftiest of the tagalongs is DRUMS ("Debris Removal Unprecedented Micro-satellite"), a craft built by Kawasaki Heavy Industries. Once in orbit, the 2.75-foot-wide (84 centimeters) DRUMS will release a small object and then capture it, demonstrating tech that could eventually help humanity clean up space junk.

This will be the fifth mission for the 78-foot-tall (24 m) Epsilon, which JAXA began developing in 2007. The solid-fueled rocket is capable of delivering to low Earth orbit payloads as heavy as 2,646 pounds (1,200 kg), according to its JAXA specifications page.

The four previous Epsilon launches — which took place in September 2013, December 2016, January 2018 and January 2019 — were all successful. 

The 2019 launch lofted RAPIS 1 ("Rapid Innovative Payload Demonstration Satellite 1"), the primary payload on the first mission developed via JAXA's Innovative Satellite Technology Demonstration Program. RAISE 2 is the second mission in that program, which seeks to encourage the development of innovative space tech, especially by universities and the private sector.

Editor's note: This story was originally published on Sept. 30. It was updated after that day's scrubbed launch attempt, then updated again on Oct. 6 with news of the new target liftoff time, and then again at 9 p.m. EDT on Oct. 6 with news of that day's scrub.

Mike Wall is the author of "Out There" (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook. 

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Mike Wall
SPACE.COM SENIOR SPACE WRITER — Michael has been writing for since 2010. His book about the search for alien life, "Out There," was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before becoming a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Michael on Twitter.