Rocket explodes seconds after launch in Japan

Private company Space One was carrying out its first attempt to launch a satellite

Moment Japan rocket explodes on launch

Moment Japan rocket explodes on launch
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Japan’s first private-sector attempt to put a satellite into orbit failed on Wednesday when the launch rocket exploded soon after lift-off.

State broadcaster NHK's live coverage of the launch showed the Kairos rocket exploding in flames seconds after taking off at about 11am from Space Port Kii in Wakayama prefecture, about 420km south-west of Tokyo.

There were no reports of injuries, and the fire was brought under control, according to the fire department in Kushimoto city.

Space One, a Tokyo-based start-up behind the rocket launch, said a self-destruct order was sent shortly after launch. The company did not say what prompted the order.

Kairos, which in ancient Greek means “the right moment”, was carrying a government satellite, according to Space One.

The launch had already been delayed several times, with the last postponement on Saturday after a ship was spotted in a risk area, according to Japanese media reports.

Space One was set up in 2018 with investments from major Japanese companies, including Canon Electronics, IHI, Shimizu and major banks.

Japan’s space programme has been led by the government's National Space Development Agency of Japan, now known as Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (Jaxa).

At 18 metres, the Kairos is shorter than the national space agency’s 24-metre Epsilon rocket and the 63-metre H3, which Jaxa launched in February.

Space One chief executive Masakazu Toyoda said this month that the size of Kairos would help the company fill a niche in the local market by offering competitive prices and frequent missions.

Space Port Kii is the nation’s first launch complex for commercial missions, offering companies an alternative to the site that Jaxa uses in southern Japan.

Updated: March 13, 2024, 7:25 AM