New Japanese Rocket Fails During Launch, Intentionally Destroyed

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New Japanese Rocket Fails During LaunchSTR - Getty Images
  • After more than two decades developing the new H3 rocket, it was destroyed during a failed launch.

  • The second stage ignition didn’t work, rendering the Japanese rocket useless after the initial blast.

  • The hydrogen-fueled main engine performed well during the launch.

The hydrogen-fueled engine powering the initial launch of the $1.5 billion H3 rocket in Japan worked flawlessly. But it was a more traditional second-stage engine failure after takeoff that doomed the highly anticipated rocket within 14 minutes of launch.

In one of the shortest press releases sent by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), the situation was spelled out. “A destruct command has been transmitted to H3 around 10:52 (Japan Standard Time),” it reads, “because there was no possibility of achieving the mission. We are confirming the situation.”

The development of the rocket has been stressful for more than two decades, as it was tasked with replacing the H2 and doing so with a hydrogen-fueled engine.

But it was the more traditional second stage engine—needed to get the fuel-laden rocket into orbit—that failed, requiring JAXA to destroy the rocket by sending it into the ocean before it posed a threat to the public.

The failure of the H3 is a substantial setback for both Japan’s space program and its missile detection program. Especially considering it was already delayed two years because of an engine development issue, according to the Associated Press, and a launch attempt in February suffered an electrical glitch after the main engine ignition that required a last-second abort call.

“Our top priority is to do everything we can to find the cause and regain the trust in our rockets,” Hiroshi Yamakawa, JAXA president, said in a news conference after the failure. “We need to figure out what we should do to successfully achieve the next launch.”

Created in partnership between JAXA and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, the 196-foot-long rocket could carry larger payloads than its predecessor, but with launch costs half that thanks to the more simplified hydrogen-fueled main engine. But without a successful launch, the benefits remain two decades in the making, if at all.

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