“Inevitably, this will raise some questions, but overall it is unlikely to have much influence,” he added, noting that the Epsilon is not scheduled for another flight until 2015.
The rocket’s smaller size and a computer system that allows it to perform its own system checks means it can be assembled quickly, which is expected to cut both personnel and equipment costs.
Launch control can be carried out using conventional desktop computers, greatly reducing costs and making the launches more mobile since they could take place at more sites.
U.S. companies had a monopoly on the commercial launch business 30 years ago, but its hold has steadily declined, with most of the business going to the France-based Arianespace, a public-private European partnership that in 2012 reported revenue of 1.3 billion euros.
The market has been shaken up by the recent entry of the California-based Space Exploration Technologies, known as SpaceX.
Russia also markets a variety of rockets for space launches. Its workhorse Soyuz spaceships have been the only vehicles delivering crews to the ISS since the U.S. Space Shuttle fleet was retired from service in 2011.
India and China also provide launch services to some extent.