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Japan's first private-sector rocket carrying satellite explodes moments after launch | WATCH

If successful, Japan's Space One would have become the first Japanese company to put a satellite into orbit. However, the mission ended in failure as the rocket exploded after launch, as the company said it was "interrupted" and was investigating the situation.

Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Tokyo Published on: March 13, 2024 10:31 IST
Japan, private sector rocket, explosion
Image Source : AP Space One's Kairos rocket explodes after liftoff from a launch pad in Wakayama prefecture.

Tokyo: Japan's first private-sector rocket, intending to put a satellite rocket, exploded seconds after takeoff on Wednesday, as seen in a live-streaming video. The rocket called Kairos was seen blasting off from Wakayama Prefecture, in central Japan, a mountainous area filled with trees, but exploding midair within seconds.

A huge plume of smoke engulfed the area, and flames shot up in some spots. The video then showed spurts of water trying to put out the blaze. There were no reports of injuries, and the fire has been brought under control, according to the fire department in Kushimoto city, Wakayama. Tokyo-based startup Space One was the brains behind the rocket launch.

Space One tried to become the first Japanese company to send a satellite into orbit through the 18-metre (59 ft) solid-fuel rocket. The company said the flight was "interrupted" after the launch on the tip of the mountainous Kii peninsula in western Japan and was investigating the situation. There was no immediate indication of what caused the explosion.

The launch was already delayed several times, with the last postponement coming on Saturday, after a ship was spotted in a risk area, according to Japanese media reports. Wednesday’s failure is likely to work as a setback for such private sector efforts. The rocket was supposed to have sent a satellite into orbit around Earth to gather various information.

Kairos carried an experimental government satellite that can temporarily replace intelligence satellites in orbit if they fell offline. Although Japan is a relatively small player in the space race, the nation's rocket developers are scrambling to build cheaper vehicles to capture booming demand for satellite launches from its government and global clients.

About Space One

Tokyo-based Space One was established in 2018 by a consortium of Japanese companies: Canon Electronics, the aerospace engineering unit of IHI, construction firm Shimizu and the state-backed Development Bank of Japan. Shares in Canon Electronics fell more than 9 per cent after Wednesday's failed launch and shares in IHI were down as much as 2 per cent.

Space One wants to offer "space courier services" to domestic and international clients, aiming to launch 20 rockets a year by the late 2020s, its president Masakazu Toyoda said. Although the company delayed Kairos' inaugural launch window four times, it said orders for its second and third planned trips have been filled, including by an overseas customer.

Kairos is composed of three stages of solid-fuelled engines and a liquid-fuelled post-boost stage engine, attempting to carry payloads of up to 250 kg to low-Earth orbit. Last month, the state-funded Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) successfully launched its new cost-efficient flagship rocket, the H3. JAXA completed a historic "pinpoint" moon landing this year, and the H3 is scheduled to carry about 20 satellites and probes to space by 2030.

(with inputs from agencies)

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