TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan said it destroyed a new medium-lift rocket it launched into space on Tuesday after the craft’s second-stage engine failed to ignite, in a blow to its efforts to expand access to space and stay competitive. In the swarming launch market of Elon Musk’s SpaceX.
The 57-meter (187-foot) H3 rocket lifted off from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)’s Tanegashima spaceport, following an unknown launch last month. JAXA said it sent a self-destruct signal to the missile after the engine failed.
The H3 was carrying ALOS-3, a disaster monitoring satellite for disaster management also equipped with an experimental infrared sensor designed to detect North Korean ballistic missile launches.
Shares of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd (7011.T), the H3 builder, fell 1.8% in morning trade, while the broader Japanese benchmark (.N225) rose 0.4%.
Powered by a new, simpler and less expensive engine that includes 3D printed parts, the H3 is designed to lift government and commercial satellites into Earth orbit.
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It also meant bringing supplies to the International Space Station.
As part of Japan’s deep cooperation with the United States in space, the cargo will eventually be transferred to the Gateway lunar space station that NASA plans to build as part of its program 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, helping it win business in a global launch market increasingly dominated by SpaceX’s reusable Falcon 9 rocket.
In a report published in September, the Center for Strategic and International Studies estimated the cost of launching a Falcon 9 into low Earth orbit at $2,600 per kilogram. The equivalent H-II is priced at $10,500.
Additional reporting by Tim Kelly, Maki Shiraki and Rocky Swift; Editing by Christopher Cushing and Jamie Fried
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