Aviation Week reports that Japan is looking to commercialize its new Epsilon small-satellite launch vehicle, which flew successfully for the first time earlier this month:
Morita says the prototype Epsilon rocket, known as the E-X, is able to loft 1.2 metric tons to orbit for about $38 million (¥3.8 billion), though the inaugural mission launched this month from Japan’s Uchinoura Space Center cost closer to $53 million, a figure he says includes the rocket’s intensive test regime.
By 2015, however, JAXA plans to launch an interim variant of the three-stage Epsilon, known as the E-1 Dash, which will incorporate enhancements, including lighter avionics components, to deliver payloads weighing 1.4 metric tons to low Earth orbit for $38 million per launch.
If these missions go well, JAXA hopes to debut a more powerful version of Epsilon in 2017 that will deliver 1.8 metric tons to low Earth orbit for $30 million per launch.
Europe’s new Vega rocket, capable of launching up to 2.5 metric tons into low Earth orbit, costs approximately €32 million ($42 million) per flight.