Space One's Kairos Rocket Explodes During Inaugural Flight

Space One, a Japanese company, attempted to become the first Japanese company to successfully place a satellite into orbit on Wednesday. However, the Kairos rocket, which was a tiny rocket powered by solid fuel and manufactured by Space One, detonated just seconds into its initial launch.

The setback for Space One and the rocket business in Japan can be attributed to the fact that the government and investors are increasing their support for the sector in the midst of an increase in the demand for commercial satellites and a heightened focus on national security.

An explosion occurred five seconds after the launch of the 18-meter (59-foot) rocket, leaving behind a big cloud of smoke, a fire, fragments of the rocket, and sprays of firefighting water near the launch pad on the mountainous Kii peninsula in western Japan. The explosion was visible on livestreams of the local media.

Take a look at the video here:

"The rocket decided to terminate the flight after determining that it would be difficult to accomplish its mission," said Masakazu Toyoda, the president of the business.

In addition to committing to conducting an investigation into the accident, Space One did not provide any information regarding the cause of the self-destruction that occurred after the first-stage engine ignited or the time at which the company will launch the subsequent Kairos.

According to the business, the launch is highly automated, and it only requires about a dozen ground staff members. Additionally, the rocket is designed to self-destruct if it detects faults in its flight route, speed, or control system that could result in a crash that puts people on the ground in danger.

"We do not use the word 'failure' because each trial brings us... new data and experience for another challenge," Toyoda said during a press conference. "We do not refer to failure as a word."

Shuhei Kishimoto, the governor of Wakayama prefecture, gave a statement to the press that the fire had been put out and that there were no injuries reported in the vicinity of the launch pad.

An experimental government satellite was carried by Kairos. This satellite has the capability to temporarily replace intelligence satellites in orbit in the event that they become unavailable.

The launch was scheduled to take place on Saturday, but Space One decided to postpone it after a ship entered the restricted maritime region that was located nearby.

Local courier services in space

Despite the fact that Japan is a relatively minor participant in the space race, the country's rocket developers are working hard to develop more affordable vehicles in order to meet the growing demand for satellite launches from both the Japanese government and commercial customers around the world.

A coalition of Japanese corporations, including Canon Electronics, the aerospace engineering section of IHI, the construction giant Shimizu, and the state-backed Development Bank of Japan, came together in 2018 to develop Space One, which is headquartered in Tokyo. There are also minority holdings owned by Mitsubishi UFJ and Mizuho, which are two of the largest banks in Japan.

As a result of the unsuccessful launch that occurred on Wednesday, shares of Canon Electronics dropped by as much as thirteen percent, while shares of IHI dropped by as much as two percent.

It has been said by Toyoda that Space One intends to launch twenty rockets annually by the late 2020s, with the goal of providing "space courier services" to customers both domestic and foreign respectively. The company stated that orders for its second and third scheduled excursions have been fulfilled, including one from a buyer located outside of the country, despite the fact that it had postponed the launch date for Kairos' first trip four times.

In an effort to transport payloads of up to 250 kilograms to low-Earth orbit, the Kairos spacecraft is made up of three stages of solid-fuel engines plus a liquid-fuel post-boost stage engine.

The launch prices of Kairos are not disclosed by Space One; nevertheless, an executive from the firm, Kozo Abe, stated that it is "competitive enough" to compete with Rocket Lab, an American competitor.

Over the course of 2017, Rocket Lab has successfully launched over forty Electron mini rockets from New Zealand, with each mission costing over seven million dollars. iQPS and Synspective, two Japanese firms that manufacture radar satellites, as well as Astroscale, a startup that removes junk from orbit, are among the companies that have utilized Electron for their respective missions.

Improving the state of an industry

The United States of America is assisting Japan in its efforts to revitalize its domestic aerospace sector in order to compete with China and Russia in terms of both technological and military capabilities.

In the previous month, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), which is supported by the state, successfully launched its new flagship rocket, the H3, which is more cost-efficient. JAXA successfully performed a historic "pinpoint" moon landing this year, and it is anticipated that the H3 will be able to transport approximately twenty satellites and probes into orbit by the year 2030.

JAXA, on the other hand, has been experiencing a string of failures before to that. It was unsuccessful for the first launch of the H3 rocket in 2022, as well as for another flight of a smaller rocket called Epsilon in 2022. During the month of July in the year 2023, an enhanced engine for Epsilon crashed at the testing site of JAXA.

Interstellar Technologies successfully launched Japan's first privately produced rocket utilizing its MOMO series in the year 2019, despite the fact that the launch did not include a full-scale satellite payload.

Last year, the government made a commitment to provide "comprehensive" support to space companies that possess technology that is essential to the nation's security. This commitment comes as the government works to construct satellite constellations in order to increase its intelligence capabilities.

It was announced on Friday by the Japanese Ministry of Defense that it had reached an agreement with Space One to increase the payload capacity of its rockets through the utilization of fuel-efficient methane engines.

"Rocket Lab, too, did not achieve its mission at the inaugural (Electron) flight, but it went on to launch three rockets in its second year," Toyoda explained further. "We can't stop here – we need to compete with this company."

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