Space One rocket explodes in Japan

A Japanese company’s rocket exploded moments after its launch attempt to deploy a satellite into orbit. Tokyo-based Space One’s 18-meter Kairos rocket took off from its launch pad in western Japan’s Wakayama region, carrying a small government test satellite. However, the solid-fueled rocket erupted into flames seconds later, with live footage capturing smoke rising into the remote mountainous area. Space One acknowledged the launch attempt but stated they aborted the flight and are investigating the details.

Debris from the rocket fell on surrounding slopes as sprinklers initiated water sprays. Hundreds of spectators, including those gathered at a nearby waterfront, expressed disappointment and curiosity about the incident. Early failures in rocket launches are common, as seen with SpaceX, yet Space One’s setback impacts Japan’s aspirations to enter the lucrative commercial satellite launch market.

The plan was for the Kairos rocket, named after the ancient Greek term for “the right moment,” to orbit the satellite approximately 51 minutes after liftoff. Issues such as parts shortages reportedly led to five launch postponements for Kairos, the latest being on the preceding Saturday.

The mayor of Kushimoto, the town where the launch occurred, expressed surprise and disappointment but affirmed continued support for Space One’s endeavors. Established in 2018 by major Japanese tech firms and the Development Bank of Japan, Space One aims to advance space exploration despite setbacks like this incident.

This isn’t the first setback for Japan’s space efforts, as a similar solid-fuel rocket, Epsilon S, exploded during testing last July. However, there have been recent successes, such as the launch of Japan’s new flagship rocket, the H3, last month, following years of delays. Additionally, Japan achieved a “soft landing” of an unmanned probe on the moon, solidifying its status as the fifth country to achieve this feat.

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