The Epsilon-3 rocket soars high in the dark sky over the Uchinoura Space Center in Kimotsuki, Kagoshima Prefecture, on Jan. 18. (Maiko Kobayashi)

KIMOTSUKI, Kagoshima Prefecture--The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's Epsilon-3 small solid-fuel rocket successfully lifted off from the Uchinoura Space Center here on Jan. 18, carrying a radar-imaging satellite aboard.

The liftoff, at 6:06 a.m., marked the first successful launch of an Epsilon rocket since December 2016.

The Epsilon-3 measures only 26 meters long, about half the length of a JAXA H-2A rocket. A single launch of the Epsilon costs about 4.5 billion yen ($40 million), about half that of an H-2A.

About 52 minutes after the launch, the ASNARO-2 satellite payload separated and was placed into orbit.

The Epsilon-3's accuracy in placing a satellite into an orbit has been improved compared with its predecessor, the Epsilon-2.

The 570-kilogram ASNARO-2, equipped with highly sensitive radar equipment that can detect a 1-meter-long object on the Earth, can provide high-resolution images from disaster sites. It was developed by NEC Corp.

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry provided a subsidy of 16.6 billion yen to its development and launch project.