WATCH: Japan’s Space One rocket explodes seconds after takeoff

Last updated: March 13, 2024, 08:23 IST

Japan’s Space One’s small, solid-fuel Kairos rocket explodes shortly after its inaugural launch on March 13, 2024, over Kushimoto city, Wakayama Prefecture, Japan. (Kyodo via Reuters)

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Japan’s Space One small, solid-fuel rocket exploded shortly after launch on Wednesday as the company tried to become the first Japanese company to put a satellite in orbit.

The 18-metre, four-stage solid-fuel Kairos rocket exploded just seconds after liftoff at 11:01 a.m. (local time), leaving behind massive amounts of smoke, fire, rocket fragments and sprays of firefighting water. Gone. The launch pad, at the tip of the mountainous Kii Peninsula in western Japan, is visible on local media livestreams of the launch.

Space One said the flight was “interrupted” after launch and the situation was being investigated, according to the news agency. reuters informed of. There is usually no one around during a pad launch. Space One has said the launch is highly automated and requires about a dozen employees at the ground control center. Kairos carried an experimental government satellite that can temporarily replace intelligence satellites in orbit if they go offline.

Space One had planned to launch Saturday but postponed it after a ship entered a nearby restricted maritime zone. Although Japan is a relatively small player in the space race, the country’s rocket developers are struggling to create affordable vehicles to meet growing demand for satellite launches from its government and global customers.

Tokyo-based Space One was founded in 2018 by a consortium of Japanese companies: Canon Electronics, IHI’s aerospace engineering unit, construction firm Shimizu and the state-backed Development Bank of Japan. Japan’s two largest banks, Mitsubishi UFJ and Mizuho, ‚Äč‚Äčalso hold minority stakes. Shares of Canon Electronics fell more than 9% after Wednesday’s failed launch.

Space One wants to provide “space courier services” to domestic and international customers, aiming for 20 rocket launches per year by the end of the 2020s, its president Masakazu Toyoda said. Last month, the state-funded Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) successfully launched its new cost-efficient flagship rocket, the H3. JAXA completed a historic “pinpoint” moon landing this year, and H3 is scheduled to carry about 20 satellites and probes into space by 2030.

(with agency input)