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Japan to send pint-sized satellites aloft with special rocket

TOKYO -- A rocket specifically configured for putting so-called nanosatellites into orbit will be launched by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency as early as December in a move to cut launch costs to just several million dollars.

An existing space observation SS-520 sounding rocket will make it possible to slash launch expenses to a tenth of those for the agency's major vehicles, the HII-A and the Epsilon. JAXA hopes to tap the growing international market for nanosatellites, which measure in the tens of centimeters and have such applications as crop management, urban planning and communications.

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