Japan’s powerful new missile will have to wait a bit longer to get off the ground.
The H3 rocket aborted its first-ever launch attempt Thursday evening (Feb. 16), a test flight from Japan’s Tanegashima Space Center that was supposed to send an Earth-observation satellite into orbit.
The H3 made it all the way through the countdown to T-0, which occurred as scheduled at 8:37 p.m. EST (0137 GMT and 10:37 a.m. Japan Standard Time on Feb. 17). The two LE-9 engines powering the vehicle’s core stage ignited, but one of the two solid rocket boosters failed to do so, commentators said during the live stream of the launch, which was provided by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).
The missile remained grounded and in one piece.
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It wasn’t immediately clear why the booster didn’t turn on; more time will be needed to investigate it, launch commentators said.
Thursday’s abort adds to the delays in the H3’s journey to orbit. JAXA and its commercial partner, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, have been developing the missile for a decade.
JAXA has high expectations for the H3, which is designed to be flexible and cost-effective. The new vehicle will soon replace Japan’s workhorse H-IIA missile, if all goes according to plan.
The satellite that would fly today is called the Advanced Land Observing Satellite-3 (ALOS-3). (opens in new tab)), also known as DAICHI-3
The 3-ton ALOS-3 will be able to resolve features as small as 2.6 feet (0.8 meters) wide on our planet’s surface from its final spot in low Earth orbit, JAXA has said. officials said. The observations will have many uses, including monitoring and disaster response.
Thursday’s planned launch was originally scheduled for Tuesday (Feb. 14), but bad weather caused a two-day delay.
Japan has launched one orbital mission so far this year: an H-IIA successfully launched Japan’s IGS Radar 7 surveillance satellite into orbit on Jan. 25.
Mike Wall is the author of “Outside (opens in new tab)(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for extraterrestrial life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (opens in new tab). follow us on twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) or Facebook (opens in new tab).
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