Japan's first private-sector rocket launch attempt ends with explosion shortly after takeoff

TOKYO (AP) — A rocket that was supposed to become Japan’s first from the private sector to put a satellite into orbit exploded shortly after takeoff Wednesday, livestreamed video showed.

Online video showed the rocket called Kairos blasting off from Wakayama Prefecture, in central Japan, a mountainous area filled with trees, but exploding midair within seconds.

A huge plume of smoke engulfed the area, and flames shot up in some spots. The video then showed spurts of water trying to put out the blaze.

There were no reports of injuries, and the fire has been brought under control, according to the fire department in Kushimoto city, Wakayama,

Tokyo-based startup Space One, behind the rocket launch, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Live footage on public broadcaster NHK relayed a voice announcing to the crowd gathered to watch the takeoff from a safe distance. NHK showed debris scattering from the sky, and later charred pieces strewn about on the ground. The cause of the problems was still under investigation, according to NHK.

The launch was already delayed several times, with the last postponement coming Saturday, after a ship was spotted in a risk area, according to Japanese media reports.

If it had succeeded, Space One would have been the first private company to put a rocket into orbit.

Tokyo-based Space One was set up in 2018, with investments from major Japanese companies, including Canon Electronics, IHI, Shimizu and major banks.

Japan’s main space exploration effort has been led by the government’s NASDA, which stands for The National Space Development Agency of Japan, this nation’s equivalent of NASA of the U.S. The agency is now called JAXA, or Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.

Wednesday’s failure is likely to work as a setback for such private sector efforts. The rocket was supposed to have sent a satellite into orbit around earth to gather various information.


Yuri Kageyama is on X: https//twitter.com/yurikageyama

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