Space One Rocket Explodes Shortly After Takeoff From Southern Japan

By Consultants Review Team Wednesday, 13 March 2024

Shortly after taking off on Wednesday, Japan's Space One rocket, which was attempting to become the country's first to carry a satellite into orbit, burst into flames. Just after 11:01 a.m. (local time), the 18-meter, four-stage solid-fuel Kairos rocket burst seconds after takeoff, leaving behind a massive cloud of smoke, a fire, rocket fragments, and firefighting water sprays near the launch pad. All of these things were visible on local media livestreams of the launch on the tip of the mountainous Kii peninsula in western Japan.

According to the report, Space One claimed that the mission had been "interrupted" following launch and was looking into the matter. During a launch, pads usually have no people around. According to Space One, the launch is fully automated and needs around a dozen workers at the ground control center. In the event that intelligence satellites in orbit go out, Kairos carried an experimental government satellite that can take their place.

The launch was originally scheduled for Saturday, but Space One had to reschedule it after a ship approached the surrounding restricted maritime region. Japan is a relatively tiny participant in the space race, but its rocket engineers are working feverishly to produce more affordable vehicles in order to meet the country's government's and other international clients' growing demand for satellite launches.

A group of Japanese businesses, led by the government-backed Development Bank of Japan, Canon Electronics, IHI's aerospace engineering division, and construction company Shimizu, founded Tokyo-based Space One in 2018. Minority owners include Mitsubishi UFJ and Mizuho, two of the largest banks in Japan. Canon Electronics' stock dropped more than 9% following the launch that went awry on Wednesday.

According to Space One President Masakazu Toyoda, the company plans to launch 20 rockets annually by the late 2020s as part of its "space courier services" for both local and foreign customers. The state-funded Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) launched the H3, its new, economical flagship rocket, successfully last month. This year, JAXA successfully carried out a historic "pinpoint" lunar landing. By 2030, the H3 is expected to send around 20 satellites and probes into space.

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