Aerospace manufacturer Space One was attempting to become Japan’s first private firm to place a satellite in orbit. On Wednesday morning, however, a live video stream showed its 23-ton Kairos rocket exploding shortly after liftoff. It departed from Spaceport Kii, a new private launch pad in Kushimoto, Wakayama Prefecture, just after 11 a.m. A few seconds later, the rocket burst into flames. The remains then fell onto the mountainous area below and into the sea. According to the Tokyo-based startup, the flight was “interrupted” after the launch. The firm is now investigating the situation.  

Wakayama Governor Shuhei Kishimoto told reporters that the fire had been extinguished and that there had been no injuries. The rocket was scheduled to put a small experimental government satellite in orbit. It was due to be launched on Saturday. However, around 10 minutes before liftoff, a ship was detected entering the nearby restricted sea area.

Space One had originally planned to conduct its first rocket launch in fiscal 2021. Since then, though, it has been forced to postpone several times as it found it difficult to procure parts due to the coronavirus pandemic and the war in Ukraine.  

About Space One  

Established in July 2018 by a consortium of Japanese companies, including Canon Electronics, Shimizu Corp., IHI Aerospace and the government-owned Development Bank of Japan, Space One is a launch services provider that uses small rockets. According to the firm’s website, it offers “the world’s shortest lead time from contractual engagement to launch, as well as the world’s most frequent launching schedule.” The company’s aim is to send 30 rockets a year into space by the 2030s. It also hopes to offer a “space parcel delivery” service. 

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