Space agency launches H3 rocket, destroys it over second-stage failure

An H3 rocket lifts off from Tanegashima Space Center in Kagoshima, yesterday

Japan’s space agency intentionally destroyed a new H3 rocket minutes after its launch yesterday because the ignition failed for the second stage of the country’s first new rocket series in more than two decades.

Coming three weeks after an aborted launch due to a separate glitch, the H3’s failure was a setback for Japan’s space program — and possibly for its missile detection program — and a disappointment for space fans who were rooting for the retrial.

The H3 rocket with a white head blasted off and soared into the blue sky from the Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan as fans and local residents cheered. It followed its planned trajectory and the second stage separated as designed, but the ignition for it failed, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency said.

JAXA officials apologized for the failure, and said it sent a command to destroy the rocket about 14 minutes after liftoff as there was no hope for it to complete its mission.

Yasuhiro Funo, JAXA director for launch implementation, said the second stage and its payload fell into the deep sea off the eastern coast of the Philippines. He said the rocket, which was not going to enter the targeted orbit while carrying a lot of fuel, was unsafe and had to be destroyed.

No damages or injuries were reported from the destruction of the rocket or its falling debris.

The rocket was carrying an Advanced Land Observation Satellite, or ALOS-3, tasked primarily with Earth observation and data collection for disaster response and mapmaking, and an experimental infrared sensor developed by the Defense Ministry that can monitor military activity including missile launches.

There is no plan for an alternative satellite launch to replace the earlier generation of ALOS, said Katsuhiko Hara, Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology minister. He did not say if or how the delay could affect disaster and missile detection capability.

The failure is the second in six months since a smaller Epsilon-series solid-fueled rocket designed to launch scientific satellites failed in October. MDT/AP

Categories Asia-Pacific