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Japan’s 1st Commercial Rocket Explodes Shortly After Liftoff

Rocket Japan
Japan’s first commercial rocket launch exploded shortly after liftoff. Image: Japan’s H-IIA rocket Credit: Flickr / NASA Goddard Space Flight Center CC BY 2.0 DEED

A Japanese company tried to launch its first rocket into space on Wednesday, but it didn’t go as planned. The rocket, known as Kairos, took off from Space Port Kii in Kushimoto, Japan.

It was 10:01 p.m. EDT on March 12th (or 02:01 GMT, which is 11:01 a.m. Japan time on March 13th), when, unfortunately, just after liftoff, things went awry.

The rocket suddenly exploded in the air. This was the result of the activation of the flight termination system, leading to the unexpected end of the mission, as reported by

The Japanese company’s effort to be the first private launch company from Japan to reach orbit left debris scattered around the launch site. However, in a press conference after the launch, it was announced that there was no damage, and no one was hurt. Any fires seen right after the launch were quickly extinguished.

Rocket autonomously terminated the flight leading to explosion

Company President Masakazu Toyoda stated, as reported by Reuters, that the rocket decided to end the flight because it determined that completing its mission would be difficult.

However, what caused the autonomous flight termination system to activate wasn’t revealed. There will be further investigations to determine the reason for the launch’s failure. The next launch will depend on what the investigation reveals and the steps needed to prevent a repeat of the failure.

The Kairos rocket is constructed with three solid-propellant stages and a liquid-propellant upper stage. It is designed to carry payloads weighing up to 550 pounds (250 kilograms) into low Earth orbit. Additionally, it’s made to be highly automated for smoother operation, as reported by

Tokyo-based Space One aims to launch 20 times per year

Space One, headquartered in Tokyo, was founded in 2018 by key stakeholders, including Canon Electronics, IHI Aerospace Co., Ltd., Shimizu Corporation, and the Development Bank of Japan. The company has expressed its goal to conduct over twenty launches annually by the end of the decade.

An earlier launch, originally set for March 9th Japan time, was postponed due to safety concerns triggered by a vessel in the designated area downrange.

Failures during the initial launches of new rockets are quite common. SpaceX Falcon 1 is frequently mentioned as an example of a rocket that initially failed during its early launches but eventually succeeded.

Recently, various new launchers, such as those from US company Astra and China’s Landspace, have also experienced failures, according to

“Rocket Lab, too, did not achieve its mission at the inaugural (Electron) flight, but it went on to launch three rockets in its second year,” Toyoda said, according to Reuters.

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