Japanese Rocket Launch Does Not Go Well

Space One stumbles in its quest to become first private Japanese company to launch a satellite
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 13, 2024 8:41 AM CDT

Space One hoped to become the first private company in Japan to put a satellite into orbit. While the dream is still alive, the company's first attempt went horribly wrong as the rocket exploded seconds after takeoff around 11am local time Wednesday, or 10pm ET Tuesday. Livestream footage showed the Kairos solid-fuel rocket appearing to veer off its vertical flight path before being consumed in a fireball. Debris fell in a forest close to the launch facility, Space Port Kii in Wakayama Prefecture, where plumes of fire issued huge clouds of smoke. Firefighters later extinguished the blaze, the New York Times reports.

Space One, a start-up founded in 2018, said the 23-ton rocket apparently self-destructed after detecting an issue in its systems, per the Times. An investigation will probe what went wrong, President Masakazu Toyoda said at a news conference. The rocket was carrying a satellite for the Cabinet Satellite Intelligence Center, a branch of the Cabinet Intelligence and Research Office, a Japanese spy agency. The satellite was intended to "temporarily replace intelligence satellites in orbit if they fall offline," per NBC News.

The launch had been delayed five times due to what the Guardian describes as "parts shortages and other problems." The outlet notes it's "commonplace, and even expected" that new rocket systems will fail during initial tests. Still, "I didn't even imagine an outcome like this," said Katsumasa Tashima, mayor of the town of Kushimoto, where the launch took place. He added the town "will continue to support Space One, and we want to continue to offer our help so that the first rocket will have a successful launch." Within a few years, Space One hopes to be launching 20 rockets per year through its offer of "space courier services," per NBC. (More Space One stories.)

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