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Science

As space race heats up, Japan needs to find its booster

China and India are keen to put people into space, while Tokyo checks its wallet

An Epsilon-3 rocket lifts off from the Uchinoura Space Center in Kimotsuki, Kagoshima Prefecture, on Jan. 18.   © Kyodo

TOKYO -- On Jan. 18, Japan's space agency successfully launched its Epsilon-3 rocket, a small, solid-fuel rocket designed to carry satellites into orbit. While the launch came off without a hitch, it left many questions unanswered about the Epsilon program, and about Japan's space program in general.

The limitations of Japan's space program are becoming all too apparent. With international competition making big strides, driven both by private enterprise and government programs, and with shifts in the political and economic environments of space programs, Japan needs to figure out what its priorities are, and how it can focus its limited resources on areas where it can best excel.

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