The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) said in a statement it had fired the SS-520 rocket at 0833 JST on Sunday at its Uchinoura Space Center in southern Japan. JAXA said it was unable to receive data from the rocket, which has fallen back to earth in a spot it had expected.
The rocket, about 10 metres (35 feet) long and 50 centimeters (20 inches) in diameter, was carrying a 3-kg (6.6 lb), 35-centimetre satellite to take images of the earth and gather other data.
The first stage of the rocket launch was carried out but not the second, after communication problems were discovered, JAXA's spokeswoman told Reuters.
The space agency had postponed the launch of the rocket on Jan. 11 due to strong wind.
|Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's SS-520 satellite launches at its Uchinoura Space Center in Kimotsuki, Kagoshima Prefecture, Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo January 15, 2017. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via REUTERS|
Japanese mini-rocket launch fails
Japan's attempt to launch one of the smallest-ever rockets into space has ended in failure.
The 9.5-meter (32-foot) rocket lifted off around 8:30 a.m. local time Sunday from the Uchinoura Space Center in southwestern Japan, according to state broadcaster NHK.
The rocket was carrying a micro-satellite that is 35 centimeters (13 inches) tall and weighs 3 kg (6.6 lbs.).
However, according to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), communication systems malfunctioned after the rocket launched, causing the ignition of the second booster to be terminated. The rocket fell into the sea southeast of Uchinoura.
The launch, which was delayed from earlier this week because of weather, was supposed to be a proof of concept for Japan's micro-satellite and mini-rocket technology, which JAXA hopes to commercialize as private companies seek cheaper options that are easier to put into orbit.
"Several Japanese firms joined this rocket project," JAXA public relations officer Takayuki Tomobe told CNN prior to the launch, adding that the agency also hopes to share test results with other private entities in future.
"This is still a small step and we expect more impediments, but once the launch succeeds, we see a potential for making the rocket launch cheaper and shorter in project time," Tomobe said.
JAXA's aborted launch was in stark contrast to Space X's attempt this weekend. The private space exploration company successfully sent a Falcon 9 rocket into space with 10 satellites on board.
The launch's success Saturday was made even sweeter by a smooth return landing for the Falcon 9 rocket's first-stage booster. It safely returned from space and glided to a landing on a seafaring platform, known as a drone ship.
Japan aborts mini-rocket mission shortly after liftoff
Japan's space agency Sunday aborted a mission to use a mini-rocket to send a satellite into orbit after the spacecraft stopped sending data to ground control shortly after liftoff.
The SS-520 rocket, which stands around the size of a power pole, lifted off at 8:33 am (2333 GMT) into a clear sky at the Uchinoura Space Centre in southern Kagoshima Prefecture.
The rocket, regarded as one of the smallest units in the world capable of sending satellites into the space, was carrying the three-kilogramme (6.6 pound) "TRICOM-1" observation satellite.
But officials aborted the mission within minutes of takeoff after the space agency stopped receiving data from the rocket after the launch.
Local media said data stopped arriving 20 seconds after liftoff.
"The first stage of the rocket's flight went as planned. However, we were unable to receive [data] from the unit as it continued the flight," the agency said in a statement.
The rocket later fell back to earth, landing within a designated safety area in waters off the coast of southeast Japan, according to officials.
The country's space agency is expected to provide a more detailed debrief about the nature of the mishap as more information becomes available.