Japan’s space agency was forced to destroy a new rocket moments after launch.
THE Japan The Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) had to send a self-destruct command to its H3 rocket 14 minutes into flight after the ignition of the second stage of its launch failed.
It comes just three weeks after the country’s space program had to cancel a launch at the Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan due to a separate issue.
Officials are investigating the cause of Tuesday’s failure and are expected to release initial findings later.
“It was decided that the rocket could not complete its mission, so the kill command was sent,” JAXA said in a statement.
Japanese Science and Technology Minister Keiko Nagaoka said the government had set up a task force to investigate the “very regrettable” failure.
“It will have a serious impact on Japan’s future space policy, space affairs and technological competitiveness,” said Hirotaka Watanabe, a professor at Osaka University who specializes in space policy.
The H3 rocket is Japan’s first new series in more than 22 years and cost £1.22 billion (200 billion yen) to develop.
It was developed by JAXA and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries as a successor to the Japanese H-2A rocket, which is due to retire after its upcoming 50th launch.
However, the development of the rocket was marred by difficulties. Its launch was delayed for more than two years due to a development problem.
The rocket’s launch cost had also been halved to around £307,000 (50 million yen) by simplifying its design, manufacture and operation.
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The 60-meter-long rocket carried an advanced Earth observation satellite, which primarily observes the Earth and collects data for disaster response and mapping.
It also contained an experimental infrared sensor developed by the Japanese Ministry of Defense that can monitor military activity, including missile launches.
The failure is a significant setback for Japan’s space program as it faces increasing competition from rivals in the sector, including Elon MuskIt is SpaceX and the French company Arianespace.