Space One rocket explodes seconds after lift-off in Japan after multiple delays | Science & Tech News

A rocket in Japan has exploded seconds after lift-off, with flames and smoke engulfing the blast area.

Debris fell from the sky, with charred pieces of rocket littering the ground after the explosion.

The blast was triggered by Space One, the Tokyo-based startup behind the launch, after a fault was spotted in the rocket. There were no injuries reported and the rocket was unmanned.

The rocket, called Kairos, was blasting off from the mountains in west Japan.

Locals in Kushimoto were watching the launch. “I had high hopes for this, so I’m disappointed. I want to know what happened,” one elderly man told public broadcaster NHK.

Smoke rises from Space One's launching pad on the tip of Kii peninsula, after Japan's Space One's small, solid-fueled Kairos rocket exploded.
Pic: Reuters
Onlookers told journalists they were disappointed by the failed launch. Pic: Reuters

Space One was hoping to become the first private firm from Japan to put a satellite into orbit.

Had the launch worked, the satellite would have been in orbit after 51 minutes, to gather information for the Japanese government, including on rocket threats from North Korea.

The launch had already been delayed several times, most recently because a ship was spotted in a risk area. After finally getting the go-ahead, it was halted five seconds after lift-off.

Japan's Space One's small, solid-fueled Kairos rocket lifts off before it explodes,
Japan’s Space One’s Kairos rocket lifts off before it explodes. Pic: Reuters

The problem detected by the rocket’s automated system was unclear and is still under investigation, according to Space One.

It occurred during step two of the launch, with the first step being lift-off, and all the pieces of the rocket landed on Space One’s property, the company said.

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The launch was part of Japan’s attempt to take the lead in the global space race.

JAXA, the country’s national space agency, recently put an unmanned probe on the moon. It was only the fifth country to ever achieve a ‘soft landing’ on the moon’s surface, although the probe did land on its side.

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Astronauts, including JAXA’s Satoshi Furukawa, splash back to Earth

Just yesterday, a JAXA astronaut landed back on Earth in a SpaceX capsule after spending six months on the International Space Station.

After today’s explosion, Space One’s president Masakazu Toyoda told reporters: “We are taking what happened in a positive way and remain prepared to take up the next challenge.”

Launches like this are often difficult. SpaceX, now one of the biggest private space companies in the world, regularly comes into difficulties during launches of new rockets.

In November, its uncrewed Starship exploded eight minutes after lift-off – although it lasted longer than the first time it was tested, when the rocket exploded after just four minutes.

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