Space wreck: Here's why Japan was forced to destroy a rocket in space
Japan faced a major defeat in its space endeavour it was forced to destroy a new medium-lift rocket it launched into space on Tuesday after the vehicle's second-stage engine failed to ignite.
The quest for reaching space has become wider than ever, with Elon Musk's SpaceX going ahead all guns blazing in the field. SpaceX and NASA recently sent four astronauts of the Crew 6 mission to the International Space Station (ISS) aboard the Crew Dragon capsule. The capsule arrived safely on Friday carrying two US astronauts, a Russian cosmonaut and a United Arab Emirates astronaut on a six-month science mission.
Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's (JAXA) said it sent a self-destruct signal to the rocket after the engine failure. The 57-metre (187 ft) tall H3 rocket had lifted off from the JAXA Tanegashima spaceport. An earlier launch of the vehicle was aborted last month.
The H3 was carrying the ALOS-3, a disaster management land observation satellite that is also equipped with an experimental infrared sensor designed to detect North Korean ballistic missile launches.
The impact of the failed launch had a direct bearing on the shares of the company that had built the H3. Shares in Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd (MHI) fell 1.8 per cent in morning trade, while the broader Japanese benchmark index was up 0.4 per cent.
The H3 is powered by a new simpler, lower-cost engine that includes 3D-printed parts. It is aimed at lifting government and commercial satellites into Earth orbit. It can also ferry supplies to the ISS.
Japan is also working to help send people to the moon in partnership with NASA. The H3 is meant to eventually carry cargo to the Gateway lunar space station. NASA has been working on the station with the aim to return people to the moon, including Japanese astronauts.
MHI has estimated that the H3's cost per launch will be half of its predecessor, the H-II. This will give it a competitive edge in the global launch market which is currently dominated by SpaceX's reusable Falcon 9 rocket.
A report by Center for Strategic and International Studies says that the cost of putting a Falcon 9 launch to low Earth orbit stands at $2,600 per kilogramme. The H-II right now costs a whopping $10,500.