Japan's new rocket fails after engine issue, in blow to space ambitions
The rocket's second-stage engine failed to ignite, so mission officials had to destroy the vehicle.
Japan's medium-lift rocket crashed on Tuesday during its first flight in space. The launcher's second stage engine failed to ignite as expected. This was a setback for its efforts to lower the cost of space access and to compete with Elon Musk's SpaceX.
The H3 rocket, which measures 57 meters (187 ft) in height, took off smoothly from Tanegashima's space port. This was a live streamed broadcast by Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).
However, when the rocket reached space, its second-stage engine failed in ignition, and mission officials had to manually destroy it.
"It was determined that the rocket couldn't complete its mission so the destruct command (sent)" a JAXA launch broadcast commentator said. "So, what happened?" We will investigate the data to find out what happened.
After a failed launch last month, the unsuccessful attempt was made.
Hirotaka Watanabe is a professor at Osaka University who specializes in space policy.
"This will have a serious impact on Japan's future space policy, space business and technological competitiveness," he added.
Japan's first new rocket in three decades was carrying the ALOS-3, a disaster management land observation satellite, which was also equipped with an experimental infrared sensor designed to detect North Korean ballistic missile launches.
H3 builder Mitsubishi Heavy Industries said it was confirming the situation surrounding the rocket with JAXA and did not have an immediate comment.
MHI has estimated that the H3's cost per launch will be half that of its predecessor, the H-II, helping it win business in a global launch market increasingly dominated by SpaceX's reusable Falcon 9 rocket.
A company spokesperson said earlier that it was also relying on the reliability of Japan's previous rockets to gain business.
The Center for Strategic and International Studies published a September report estimating that a Falcon 9 launch to low earth orbit would cost $2,600 per kilogram. The H-II has a similar price tag at $10,500.
A successful launch of Tuesday's Japanese rocket would have launched it into space before the launch of the new, lower-cost Ariane 6 vehicle by the European Space Agency later in the year.
The H3 uses a simpler, cheaper engine with 3D-printed parts. It is designed to transport supplies to the International Space Station and lift commercial and government satellites into orbit.
As part of Japan's deepening cooperation with the United States in space, it will also eventually carry cargo to the Gateway lunar space station that U.S. space agency NASA plans to build as part of its program to return people to the moon, including Japanese astronauts.