Japan’s New H3 Rocket Forced to Self-Destruct During Inaugural Launch

Japan’s New H3 Rocket Forced to Self-Destruct During Inaugural Launch

Space is hard — even in 2023. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, instead of celebrating the launch of its new H3 rocket, is now trying to figure out what went wrong during today’s failed flight.

The two-stage H3 rocket left the pad on schedule, rising into the sky at 8:37 p.m. ET from the Tanegashima Space Centre in Japan. It was only after first stage separation that things started to go wrong, with ground controllers saying they weren’t able to confirm second stage engine ignition. Controllers then made the decision to engage the rocket’s flight termination system, saying “there was no possibility of achieving the mission.”

Aboard the rocket was the ALOS-3 advanced Earth observation satellite, also known as “DAICHI-3,” which was presumably destroyed as a result of the self-destruct. Beyond this, it’s not entirely clear what went wrong, but JAXA did say it’s launching an investigation.

This was JAXA’s second attempt at launching H3. On February 17, an abort was called at T-0 as the result of “transient fluctuations” in the communication and power lines during electrical separation.

Ten years in the making, H3 is being positioned as Japan’s next flagship rocket and a way for the country to “continuously have access to space.” The rocket, a collaboration between JAXA and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, was approved in 2013. The program is years behind schedule as a result of developmental delays. We now await the results of the investigation in hopes of learning what went wrong and when H3 might fly again.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates as we’ll be updating this page as new information arises.

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