The flagship H3 launch vehicle took off at 10:37 am local time, Hiroshi Yamakawa, president of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), told reporters on Tuesday. It carries an “advanced optical satellite.”
“But the second stage engine didn’t fire,” he continued. “Since it was not possible to place the rocket in the planned orbit, we sent a signal to destroy the rocket,” minutes later at 10:51 am
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“A destruct command was issued to the H3 … because there was no possibility of achieving the mission,” the agency said in a brief memo.
Japan’s space agency will set up a task force to investigate the cause of the failure, it said.
Yasuhiro Funo, JAXA’s director for launch operations, told the Associated Press that the vehicle fell into the deep sea off the coast of the Philippines, and that the rocket was unsafe and had to be deliberately destroyed after it failed to launch. operate and are not in the intended orbit.
The H3 rocket is about 63 meters long and is Japan’s first new model in decades, according to JAXA. It is billed as Japan’s next-generation heavy-lift launch vehicle, and a successor to its soon-to-be-retired H2 rocket. Built by JAXA and contractor Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, it was designed to be low-cost and allow the launch of government and commercial satellites into space.
“The H3 rocket is extremely important for the government, private companies and universities, from the standpoint of ensuring our independent access to space and also to ensure our international competitiveness,” Yamakawa said.
Japanese officials hope that the H3 will allow them a cheaper way to compete with others, including Elon Musk’s SpaceX company.
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The H3 is carrying an Advanced Land Observation Satellite, known as the ALOS-3 system, JAXA said. It would have been allowed to engage in observation, mapping, data collection for disaster response and monitoring of nearby military activity, including North Korea’s missile launches.
“It will take some time to find out the cause of this failure or take any measures, and in terms of cost, the burden will also increase,” Yamakawa said. “But in the end … we’re still aiming to field an internationally competitive rocket.”
Japan’s Science and Technology Minister Keiko Nagaoka called it a “very regrettable” failure, Reuters reported, and pledged to support the task force investigating the incident.
Elsewhere, European Space Agency director Josef Aschbacher, Tweet his support and said he was “deeply saddened” to learn of the failed flight. His agency, “stands in Japan, is a strong partner of ours, and hopes to quickly return to the launchpad,” he added.
Naomi Schanen contributed to this report.