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  • Voltaire Staff

Japanese company's Space One's inaugural explodes seconds after lift-off



Japan's Space One's highly anticipated inaugural flight ended in a disappointment on Wednesday, when its 18-meter solid-fuel Kairos rocket exploded mere seconds after lift-off.


The Tokyo-based Space One's Kairos rocket was launched from its designated pad in western Japan's Wakayama region, with a small government test satellite on board.


However, mere seconds after liftoff, around 11.01 am, the solid-fuelled rocket exploded in flames, engulfing the remote mountainous area in billowing smoke, as captured by live footage, reported Reuters.


Following the launch from the tip of the mountainous Kii peninsula, Space One announced that it had "terminated the flight" and was in the process of analysing the flight data.


Kairos is composed of three stages of solid-fuel engines and a liquid-fuel post-boost stage engine, attempting to carry payloads of up to 250 kg to low-Earth orbit.


It was tasked with carrying an experimental government satellite designed to serve as a temporary replacement for intelligence satellites in orbit in case of malfunctions or downtime.


Founded in 2018 by a consortium including Canon Electronics and IHI Aerospace, Space One seeks to meet rising demand for satellite launches.


With backing from major banks like Mitsubishi UFJ and Mizuho, the company aims to offer "space courier services," targeting 20 launches per year by the late 2020s, according to its president, Masakazu Toyoda.


Shuhei Kishimoto, the governor of the Wakayama, told reporters following a briefing by Space One that an issue had prompted the activation of the autonomous flight-termination system. However, he did not disclose the specific nature of the problem.


Kishimoto further stated that there were no reported injuries near the launch pad, and the resulting fire had been successfully extinguished.


Space One said that the launch process is highly automated, incorporating functions such as flight termination, and necessitates the presence of approximately a dozen staff members at the ground control centre.


Originally scheduled for Saturday, Space One postponed the launch when a ship entered the nearby restricted sea area.


Despite Japan's modest role in the space industry, its rocket developers are striving to produce more cost-effective vehicles to meet the increasing demand for satellite launches, both domestically and internationally.


State-funded Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) achieved a milestone last month with the successful launch of its cost-effective flagship rocket, the H3.


Despite recent triumphs like a historic "pinpoint" moon landing earlier this year, JAXA has encountered setbacks.


The inaugural flight of the H3 failed last year, along with a 2022 flight of the smaller Epsilon rocket. In July 2023, an upgraded engine for the Epsilon rocket exploded at JAXA's testing site.


Japan, in collaboration with the United States, aims to revive its aerospace industry to compete with China and Russia in technology and military realms.


Last year, the government pledged "comprehensive" support for space startups, emphasizing technology vital for national security to bolster satellite constellations for enhanced intelligence capabilities.


Recently, Japan's defence ministry announced a partnership with Space One to enhance rocket payloads through experiments with fuel-efficient methane engines.


While Space One has not disclosed the launch costs for its Kairos rocket, company executive Kozo Abe stated that they are "competitive enough" compared to its American counterpart, Rocket Lab.

 

 

 

 

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