April 21, 2024

A rocket made by a Japanese company exploded seconds after it was launched to put a satellite into orbit.

Tokyo based Space One’s 18-meter Kairos rocket blasted off from the company’s launch pad in western Japan’s Wakayama region on Wednesday carrying a small government test satellite.

Seconds later, the solid-fuel rocket exploded in flames, sending smoke billowing toward the remote mountainous area, live footage showed. “The launch of the first Kairos rocket was carried out, but we have taken a measure to abort the flight,” Space One said in a statement, adding that “details are being investigated”.

Burning debris fell down the surrounding slopes as sprinklers began spraying water. Hundreds of spectators gathered at public viewing areas, including a nearby waterfront. “I had high hopes for this, so I’m disappointed. I want to know what happened,” one elderly man told public broadcaster NHK.

Failures with early attempts to launch a new rocket system are common, and even expected, as exemplified by SpaceX. The Space One failure continues to be a blow to Japan’s efforts to enter the potentially lucrative commercial satellite launch market.

The plan was that Kairos – an ancient Greek word meaning “the right moment” – would put the satellite into orbit about 51 minutes after liftoff. Parts shortages and other problems have reportedly led Space One to delay the launch of Kairos five times, most recently on Saturday.

The mayor of Kushimoto, the town of 15,000 in Wakayama where the launch took place, expressed surprise and disappointment. “I didn’t even imagine an outcome like this,” said Katsumasa Tashima. But the town “will continue to support Space One, and we want to continue to offer our help so that the first rocket will have a successful launch,” he said.

Space One was founded in 2018 by a team of major Japanese technology companies, including Canon Electronics, IHI Aerospace, construction firm Shimizu and the state-owned Development Bank of Japan.

Last July, another Japanese rocket, the solid fuel Epsilon S, exploded during a test about 50 seconds after ignition.

However, last month Japan’s space agency toasted a successful blast for its new flagship rocket, the H3, after years of delays and two previous failed attempts.

This followed Japan’s successful landing – even if it is on his side – of an unmanned probe on the moon, making it only the fifth country to achieve a “soft landing” on the lunar surface.

With AFP

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