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Japanese startup Space One’s rocket explodes soon after launch

Livestream footage captured the private satellite 'Kairos' exploding seconds after lifting off

Japanese startup Space One’s rocket explodes soon after launch
[Source photo: Credit: Kyodo News/dpa/picture alliance]

A solid-fuel rocket developed by the Japanese startup Space One exploded mere seconds after lifting off on Wednesday from Space Port Kii, located roughly 420 km southwest of Tokyo. 

Livestream footage captured the dramatic scene as flames engulfed the four-stage 18-meter tall rocket, which would have made Space One the first domestic company to launch a satellite into space. 

This setback comes as a major blow to Space One’s ambitions of entering the rapidly growing commercial space launch market. The company, backed by Canon Inc., aimed to use the lightweight rocket named ‘Kairos’ to deliver a test satellite into orbit for the Japanese government.

While the cause of the explosion remains under investigation, no injuries were reported, said the company in a statement. They also revealed that a self-destruct order was sent to the rocket shortly after launch. Details regarding the specific flight issues were not immediately disclosed.

The company claims the launch was highly automated and required minimal personnel.

Space One, founded in 2018, envisioned offering frequent launch services with the goal of conducting 20 missions annually by the late 2020s. This dream now faces a significant roadblock.

The Kairos explosion follows another setback last July, where a Japanese rocket engine designed for the Epsilon rocket series exploded during a ground test. 

Japanese space agencies and private companies are actively working towards establishing a more robust and reliable launch capability. Notably, the Kairos is shorter than the established Japanese rockets – the national space agency’s Epsilon stands at 24 meters and the recently launched H3 by JAXA reaches 63 meters.

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