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Japan’s Space One rocket launch attempt ends in a fiery explosion

A startup company called Space One launched a rocket earlier in hopes of becoming the first private entity in Japan to put a satellite in orbit. Unfortunately, its attempt ended in a fiery explosion, mere seconds after lift off at 11AM local time. Its 60-foot-long rocket Kairos launched from the company’s Space Port Kii in Wakayama, a prefecture south of Osaka in Japan’s Kansai region. Space One director Mamoru Endo told reporters at a conference that the rocket’s automated system detected an anomaly five seconds after liftoff and triggered its self-destruct function. The company has yet to figure out what that anomaly is and will be investigating the incident for answers.

Kairos was carrying payload for the Cabinet Satellite Intelligence Center, which collects and analyzes imagery information for the Japanese government. That satellite was supposed to be an alternative to an existing Japanese satellite monitoring military facilities in and rocket launches from North Korea. Masakazu Toyoda, the company’s president, said during the conference that Space One is “prepared to take up the next challenge.” He also emphasized how common failed launches are in space travel. And that is true — SpaceX, for instance, lost several Starship vehicles over the past few years when they blew up during testing.

Space One, backed by Canon and aerospace manufacturer IHI, eventually hopes to offer satellite launch services using small rockets, which it says “offer greater scheduling flexibility than large ones.” It’s also aiming to provide the “world’s shortest lead time from contractual engagement to launch, as well as the world’s most frequent launching schedule” while also minimizing the costs of putting satellites into orbit. Since the company must be able to stage a successful launch before customers come knocking on its doors, it will most likely announce its next attempt in the near future.

Last year, Japanese company ispace also failed to become the first private company to land on the moon when it lost contact with its Hakuto-R lander. But the country’s space agency, JAXA, is doing better than its private counterparts: Its SLIM lunar lander successfully touched down in January and is expected to resume its operations in late March after the lunar night is over.

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