A technical glitch forced Japan to suspend the launch of its next-generation rocket mere seconds before lift off on Tuesday.
Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) said engineers encountered a mishap with only 19 remaining left before the solid-fuel Epsilon rocket was scheduled to blast off from the Uchinoura Space Center in Kagoshima.
A spokeswoman for the space agency said stopping the clock was “an emergency measure due to some abnormal positioning of the rocket.”
“We cancelled today’s launch and can’t say anything about the timing of our next launch, as the cause of the trouble is still unknown,” the spokeswoman said.
The three-stage Epsilon – a relatively small-sized rocket, 24 meters long and weighing 91 tonnes – was set to launch the SPRINT-A space telescope.
The SPRINT-A is the world’s first space telescope for remote observation of planets including Venus, Mars and Jupiter from its orbit around Earth.
But the setback Tuesday could stymie Japan’s bid to move forward in the international space race.
The Epsilon is equipped with artificial intelligence that allows autonomous checks by the rocket itself, JAXA said.
“It also allows us to carry out launching procedures, including ignition, through only two laptop computers,” a JAXA spokeswoman said.
Japanese officials said they are still working to identify the flaw that hampered Tuesday’s launch.
by Maesie Bertumen
Photo: Hal Dick/Flickr