On Camera, Japan’s First Private Satellite Explodes Seconds After Launch

A few seconds after launch, the rocket exploded into a fireball.


On Wednesday, a rocket made by a Japanese company exploded shortly after liftoff, with public broadcaster NHK showing footage of the fiery failure.

SpaceOne, a Tokyo-based startup, was aiming to become the first private Japanese company to successfully place a satellite into orbit.

The 18-meter (60-foot) solid-fuel Kairos rocket was launched from the company’s own launch pad in Wakayama Prefecture, western Japan, carrying the government’s small test satellite.

However, seconds after liftoff, the rocket burst into flames and black smoke filled the launch pad area.

As sprinklers began releasing water, burning debris could be seen falling onto the surrounding mountain slopes.

Space One said in a statement, “The launch of the first Kairos rocket took place, but we have taken steps to cancel the flight,” adding that “the details are under investigation.”

The failure was a blow to Japan’s efforts to enter the lucrative satellite launch market.

The government wants to assess whether temporary small satellites can be launched quickly if existing reconnaissance satellites fail.

Kairos was expected to place the satellite into orbit about 51 minutes after liftoff.

Space One was founded in 2018 by a team of major Japanese technology companies, including Canon Electronics, IHI Aerospace, construction company Shimizu, and the government-backed Development Bank of Japan.

Last July, another Japanese rocket engine exploded about 50 seconds after ignition during a test.

The solid-fuel Epsilon S was an improved version of the Epsilon rocket that had failed to launch the previous October.

The test site in northern Akita Prefecture was engulfed in flames, sending huge plumes of gray smoke into the sky.

The glitch occurred after the second launch of the next-generation H3 rocket in Tokyo in March 2023 failed after liftoff.

But last month, Japan’s space agency toasted the successful launch of its new flagship rocket, H3, after years of delays and two previous failures.

H3 was launched from Tanegashima Space Center, and the JAXA Mission Control Center erupted into cheers and applause.

It has been discussed as a rival to SpaceX’s Falcon 9, and could someday deliver cargo to bases on the Moon.

This followed Japan’s successful landing of an unmanned spacecraft on the moon’s surface in January, albeit at a precarious angle, just after the fifth century.

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