TOKYO, March 7 (Reuters) – Japan said it had destroyed a new medium-lift rocket launched into space on Tuesday after the vehicle’s second stage engine failed to ignite, in a blow to its efforts to open access to expand into space and remain competitive in a launch market rocked by Elon Musk’s SpaceX.
The 57-meter H3 rocket had lifted off from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s (JAXA) Tanegashima spaceport after an aborted launch last month. JAXA said it sent a self-destruct signal to the missile after the motor failure.
The H3 carried the ALOS-3, a land-observation disaster management satellite also equipped with an experimental infrared sensor designed to detect North Korean ballistic missile launches.
Shares in Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd (MHI) (7011.T), the builder of the H3, fell 1.8% in morning trading, while the broader Japanese reference index (.N225) rose 0.4%.
Powered by a new, simpler, lower-cost engine with 3D-printed parts, the H3 is designed to launch government and commercial satellites into orbit.
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It was also intended to carry supplies to the International Space Station.
As part of Japan’s closer cooperation with the United States in space, it will eventually carry cargo to the Gateway lunar space station that NASA plans to build as part of its program to return humans to the Moon, including Japanese astronauts .
MHI has estimated that the cost per launch of the H3 will be half that of its predecessor, the H-II, helping the company bring in more customers in a global launch market increasingly dominated by SpaceX’s Falcon 9 reusable rocket. .
In a report published in September, the Center for Strategic and International Studies estimated the cost of a Falcon 9 launch into low Earth orbit at $2,600 per kilogram. The equivalent price tag for the H-II is $10,500.
Reporting by Tim Kelly, Maki Shiraki and Rocky Swift; Edited by Christopher Cushing and Jamie Freed
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