Japanese space rocket H3 forced to self-destruct due to new failure

The H3 rocket was launched from the Tanegashima Space Center, about 1,000 kilometers southwest of Tokyo, but after reporting a failure, the Japanese space agency JAXA ordered its self-destruction.

The second attempt to launch Japan’s next-generation H3 rocket failed after liftoff Tuesday and Japan’s space agency ordered it to self-destruct after determining it would fail to complete its mission.

The failure is a blow to Japanese agency JAXA, which announced the H3 as its low-cost and flexible flagship. The project was years behind schedule and the first attempt to launch the rocket failed in February because its boosters failed to fire.

This time, H3 was able to lift off at 10:37 a.m. (0137 GMT) but an announcement on the JAXA live stream warned that the rocket’s speed appeared to be slowing.

The first phase separation went ahead as planned, but then signs of trouble appeared at the Tanegashima space center in southwestern Japan.

“It looks like the speed is dropping,” the narrators said on the JAXA live stream. Later, the command center announced that “second-stage engine ignition has not been confirmed.”

The live broadcast was briefly interrupted, with a message saying: “We are currently reviewing the situation. Please wait”. When the transmission resumed, the command center announced that “the destroy order was transmitted to H3 because it had no chance of completing the mission.”

JAXA Vice President Yasuhiro Funo told a news conference that the rocket would not reach the planned trajectory without confirming ignition of the second-stage engine. The agency believes the wreckage of the destroyed craft washed up in waters off the eastern Philippines, he added.

The cause of the failure will be investigated, agency president Hiroshi Yamakawa said, without specifying how long this investigation will last or whether they will attempt a new launch.

“When such a failure occurs, it is important that we show how quickly we can act and show our findings transparently,” he said.

“My responsibility is to focus on finding out the cause and work to restore confidence in our rockets,” he added.

The H3 is a satellite launch vehicle designed for frequent commercial use, with reliability and better cost efficiency. It was pointed out as a possible competitor to SpaceX’s Falcon 9.

“The H3 rocket is a very important rocket not only for the government of Japan, but also for companies in the private sector to access space,” Yamakawa said.

JAXA explained in the project description that it hoped to launch H3 six times a year for two decades to sustain Japan’s space industry.

. Developed by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, the H3 is the successor to the 2001 H-IIA model.