Japanese rocket carrying eight satellites fails

Japanese Rocket Carrying Eight Satellites Fails
A self-destruct command aborted the mission in Japan’s first failed rocket launch in almost 20 years. Photo: PA Images
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Mari Yamaguchi, AP

The launch of a Japanese rocket carrying eight satellites has been aborted by a self-destruct command, in the country’s first failed mission in nearly 20 years.

The Epsilon-6 rocket was not in the right position to orbit around the Earth and its flight had to be aborted less than seven minutes after take-off from the Uchinoura Space Centre in the southern Japanese prefecture of Kagoshima.


Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (Jaxa) president Hiroshi Yamakawa told an online news conference: “We deeply apologise for our failure to live up to the expectations” of local officials and those who were involved in the development of the satellites.

He pledged to assist in the investigation into the cause of the failure.

Japanese rocket takes off
The Epsilon-6 rocket leaves a smoke trail after it was launched from the Uchinoura Space Centre in Kimotsuki town, Kagoshima prefecture (Kyodo News via AP)


Jaxa officials said the agency sent a self-destruction signal after deciding the rocket was not able to fly safely and enter a planned orbit.

The agency said the rocket and payloads were believed to have fallen into the sea east of the Philippines.

The cause of the failure is still being investigated.

The Epsilon rocket was carrying eight payloads, including two developed by a private company based in Fukuoka, another southern prefecture. It was the first time an Epsilon rocket carried commercially developed payloads.


Yasuhiro Uno, who directed the Epsilon-6 launch, acknowledged that the failure could affect Epsilon’s possible launch business in the future. A commercial launch under an upgraded version, Epsilon-S, by IHI Aerospace, a Japanese company, is being planned for a Vietnamese satellite next year.

Japan rocket failure
The failure marks the first for the country’s space agency since 2003 (AP)

“Our first and foremost mission is to investigate the cause and firmly take measures,” Mr Uno said.


The 85ft-long, 95.6-tonne and solid-fuel Epsilon-6 rocket is the final version before Jaxa plans to develop another variation, Epsilon-S.

After five upgrades since the early 2010s, the Epsilon-6 is designed for a compact launch as Jaxa aims to develop a commercial satellite launch business.

Wednesday’s failure ended success records for the Epsilon series since its first launch of the original version in 2013. It marked the first failure for Jaxa since its H2A rocket failed in 2003.

The launch, originally scheduled for last Friday, had been delayed due to the location of a positioning satellite in space.


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