Japan’s new rocket fails on debut launch in setback for space program
Japan’s maiden launch of its new flagship space rocket ended in failure on Tuesday when controllers issued a destruct command just 15 minutes after liftoff, the country’s space agency said.
“A destruct command has been transmitted to H3 around 10:52 a.m. (Japan Standard Time), because there was no possibility of achieving the mission,” a statement from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) said.
A report from public broadcaster NHK said the second stage of the H3 rocket did not ignite.
The rocket, which took off from the Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan, was carrying the Advance Land Observation Satellite-3 (ALOS-3), a ground-mapping and imaging orbiter that the space agency said was planned to become a key tool in disaster management efforts.
ALOS-3 “would cover all of the land areas of not only Japan but also across the whole world,” it said.
Tuesday’s failure occurred on JAXA’s second attempt to launch the H3. On February 17, two secondary booster engines strapped to the side of the space vehicle did not ignite on the launch pad and the H3 failed to take off.
The space agency has touted the H3 as the successor to Japan’s H-2A and H-2B rockets, with flexible configurations based on what it would need to lift into orbit. It has previously touted the expected ability of the H3 to launch both government and commercial missions.
JAXA said the H3 would be more economical than many other launch vehicles because its uses “commercial-off-the-shelf products of other domestic industries such as the automobile industry rather than products exclusive to space use.”
“With several configurations, the H3 offers performance and price suitable for purposes of each satellite,” it said, adding that it was looking for regular launches over the long term.
“We are aiming to create an operational world where Japanese industrial base can be underpinned by steadily launching the H3 six times or so annually for 20 years,” JAXA said.
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries is the prime contractor for the rocket. NHK reported that JAXA and Mitsubishi have spent more that $1.5 billion on the project since its inception nine years ago.