Japan’s next-generation H3 missile self-destructed after launch when the second stage motor apparently failed.
The mission was to launch an observation satellite. The rocket has been mooted as a possible competitor to SpaceX’s Falcon 9.
It is the second H3 failure for the Japanese space agency Jaxa, after the rocket failed to leave the launch pad on an earlier attempt in February.
Tuesday’s launch from the Tanegashima space center in southwestern Japan initially appeared to be a success, with the rocket’s launch and first stage separation appearing to be going according to plan. Soon after, however, signs of trouble emerged.
“It appears that speed is decreasing,” announcers said on Jaxa’s live feed, after which the command center announced, “The ignition of the second stage motor has not yet been confirmed, we continue to confirm the situation.”
The live feed was then briefly interrupted, stating “We are currently checking the status. Please wait.” When it resumed, the command center announced that it had sent a self-destruct signal to the missile after an engine failure. There was no immediate explanation for the failure.
The H3 was aboard the ALOS-3, a land-observation disaster management satellite that was also equipped with an experimental infrared sensor to detect North Korean ballistic missile launches.
Powered by a new, simpler, lower-cost engine with 3D-printed parts, the H3 is designed to launch government and commercial satellites into orbit. It is also intended to carry supplies to the International Space Station.
As part of Japan’s closer cooperation with the US in space, it is planned to 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 .
Reuters and Agence France-Presse contributed to this report
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