In a setback for Japan’s space ambitions, the country’s new rocket was destroyed during its first test flight to space.
The rocket, named “Sakura,” was launched from the Uchinoura Space Center in Kagoshima Prefecture on Monday morning. The launch was initially successful, with the rocket lifting off the launch pad and ascending towards space.
However, just over a minute into the flight, the rocket veered off course and began to spin out of control. Moments later, it exploded in mid-air, raining debris down on the ocean below.
The cause of the rocket’s failure is not yet clear, but officials from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) have confirmed that they are investigating the incident.
“We are deeply disappointed that the Sakura rocket did not reach orbit as planned,” said JAXA President Hiroshi Yamakawa in a statement. “We will continue to investigate the cause of the failure and work to make improvements for future launches.”
The Sakura rocket was designed to carry small satellites into orbit, with a maximum payload capacity of 200 kilograms. It was seen as a key part of Japan’s push to become a major player in the global space industry.
The rocket was also notable for its use of a new type of engine, called a “liquid-fueled engine with pre-cooled combustion technology.” This engine was designed to be more efficient and cost-effective than traditional rocket engines.
The failure of the Sakura rocket is a blow to Japan’s space program, which has been making strides in recent years. In 2018, the country successfully landed two rovers on an asteroid, becoming the first country to do so.
Despite the setback, JAXA officials say they remain committed to advancing Japan’s space capabilities. “We will learn from this experience and continue to push the boundaries of what is possible in space exploration,” said Yamakawa.