All the incident happened right after the H3 rocket was launched into space at the Tanegashima Space Center on Monday after which the launch commentator in a live stream on YouTube noted that the rocket’s velocity was failing after a command or stage separation was sent to the rocket from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) observatory.
The stage separation command could not be confirmed leading to a destruct command being sent to the rocket which ended the first test flight.
“A destruct command has been transmitted to the launch vehicle because there was no possibility of achieving the mission,” read a subtitle on JAXA’s live stream.
Monday’s attempt was H3’s second at a debt launch as the first was back on February 16th. JAXA further traced the issue to an electrical system problem that affected the rocket’s first-stage LE-9 engines.
The payload meant to be delivered by eh space rocket was the Advanced Land Observing Satellite-3 (ALOS-3) which is also known as DAICHI-3.
The satellite was heading for a sun-synchronous orbit 416 miles (669km) above Earth. The job f the satellite is to take high-resolution images f Japan ad other areas in strips 43 miles (70km) wide with a resolution as sharp as 2.6 feet (o.8 meters).
JAXA in collaboration with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries has collaborated on the project for a decade-long development.
Issues getting the rocket’s powerful LE-9 liquid hydrogen-liquid oxygen engines ready resulted in significant delays to the first launch.
The giant rocket stands at 187 feet or 207 feet tall depending on the length of two possible payloads the rocket can be used for.
The rocket is also able to deliver 4 tons o more to a 310-mile-high sun-synchronous orbit and 6.5 tons more to a geostationary transfer orbit according to the JXA’s specs page.
The version that failed on Monday (H3-22) carried two solid propellant side boosters, but the rocket can be bundled with four such boosters in order to increase its carrying capacity. Monday’s test flight also only used a pair of LE-9 engines, while more capable variants of the rocket employ three LE-9s.
The launcher is meant to replace the H-IIA rocket which is Japan’s current workhorse launch vehicle that is expected to have its final light in 2024.
The unique design f the H3 rocket is meant to give it high flexibility, high reliability, and a better cost performance compared to the H-IIA rocket
Although the H3 pocket has a lot of potentials, it cannot directly compete with the likes of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 which has proven to be highly reliable, cost-effective, and reusable.
Despite this, recent developments elsewhere have created opportunities for the H3, according to Marco Aliberti, an associate senior fellow at the European Space Policy Institute (ESPI) in Vienna.
“The cutting off of Russian rockets from this market, combined with the absence of a competing European offering, open some new possibilities for Japan’s launchers, which were historically absent from the commercial market,” said Aliberti.
In order to be appealing especially on the international market, the H3 rocket will have to prove itself as being reliable and cost-effective at the same time. Its efficiency will give it more booking both from the Japanese government and other parties that would e interested in using it.
“The stable operation of H3 will make a significant contribution to Japan’s security,” said Nakama. “One of the H3’s primary goals is to maintain autonomy, aiming to operate its own core launch vehicle that meets the government’s mission of primarily national security.”
“This is critical in light of China’s growing influence in the Indo-Pacific region, where space defense has emerged as a key agenda.”
Looking further ahead, the H3 could potentially play an important role in Japan’s aspiration for crewed launch capacities, Aliberti said.