On Wednesday, a satellite-carrying rocket from Japan failed to lift off, and the country’s space agency immediately ordered the Epsilon launch vehicle to self-destruct as it veered off course.
The development handed a setback to an organisation eager to increase its uptake of commercial satellites for its launches as it was the first rocket launch failure by Japan since November 2003, when an H2A rocket was purposefully destroyed shortly after liftoff.
After the Epsilon-6 rocket took off about 9:50 a.m. from Uchinoura Space Center near the southern tip of Kyushu’s southwest main island, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency delivered the command at 9:57 a.m. Eight satellites made by both governmental and commercial organisations, including universities, were aboard.
The decision to issue the self-destruct order was made when the rocket veered from its intended position and was unable to deposit the satellites in orbit, the agency claimed in a press briefing following the unsuccessful launch.
A representative from the science ministry informed a task force meeting held at the ministry that there were no immediate reports of injuries or property damage as a result of the self-destruction.
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The rocket reportedly plummeted into the water after receiving the self-destruct order, according to the space agency. JAXA announced that it will keep looking into what caused the anomaly that resulted in the mission being terminated and that a task force will be formed to assist in the probe.
Hiroshi Yamakawa, president of JAXA, acknowledged that the error will have an impact on a number of initiatives, but he insisted that JAXA would “try its utmost to rebuild trust.”
Hirokazu Matsuno, the chief cabinet secretary, stated at a press conference that the incident was taken “seriously” and that the government was “not in a place to guess” as to whether it will have any effect on Japan’s broader space strategy at this time.
When the launch of a satellite-carrying H2A rocket was aborted because one of its two boosters failed to split in November 2003, JAXA last sent a self-destruct directive. The Epsilon series, which has successfully launched the previous five models, had never received such an order before to Wednesday.
Additionally, it was the first Epsilon rocket to carry private satellites, including two made by the Fukuoka, Japan-based space engineering company iQPS Inc.
An associate professor at Nagoya University’s School of Aerospace Engineering named Takaya Inamori worked on the Magnaro rocket’s microsatellite development. Despite the fact that nothing in the industry can be said to be “100% definite,” he expressed disappointment since “we had been hoping to exhibit new technology.”
The reliability of Japanese rockets is one of their main advantages despite being very expensive to launch. Due to an adverse satellite configuration that could have made it impossible to follow the rocket’s whereabouts, Wednesday’s launch was postponed from its intended time slot on Friday.
Epsilon-6 is a 26-meter-long rocket that weighs 95.6 tonnes. It is intended to be the Epsilon series’ better last instalment. With the increased usage of miniature satellites anticipated, JAXA has chosen the solid fuel Epsilon series over liquid fuel rockets because it offers benefits including easier construction, quicker development timelines, and shorter launch intervals.