Failure of H3 Rocket Disappoints Japan Officials, Spectators

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency official speaks to the media after a failed H3 rocket launch at Tanegashima Space Center in Kagoshima Prefecture on Tuesday morning.

The failure of the H3 rocket launch has perplexed government officials and engineers, with Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Minister Keiko Nagaoka ordering the formation of a task force to investigate the cause.

“This is extremely regrettable, and we apologize for not meeting the expectations of the public,” Nagaoka said. “We’ll work with the relevant organizations to promptly determine the cause and take steps.”

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Japan’s new mainstay H3 rocket carrying satellite Daichi-3 is at the Tanegashima Space Center in Minamitane, Kagoshima Prefecture, on Tuesday.

Koichi Yonemoto, a Tokyo University of Science professor of aerospace engineering, said the problem may have been the second stage engine itself or the electrical system for ignition.

“The body [of the rocket] has been lost, so we can only obtain limited data. It will take years to determine the cause,” Yonemoto said.

He also said the failure of the launch would “delay Japan’s space development strategy itself and have an extremely large impact.”

Prof. Emeritus Yasunori Matogawa of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency said: “I’m shocked. I can’t think of any immediate cause, and this seems like an extremely rare failure.

“We may need to consider the possibility that this is related to the recent trouble that caused a cancellation just before launch. If the cause is not identified soon, we may lose credibility regarding our entry into the global rocket market.”

Joy short-lived

Spectators gathered around the JAXA Tanegashima Space Center in Minamitane, Kagoshima Prefecture, were disappointed. A sixth-grade student from Himeji, Hyogo Prefecture, was at Hase Park, an observation area about six kilometers from the launch site, having also attended the previous launch on Feb. 17.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Spectators around the launch site get information about the H3 rocket’s failure on Tuesday at Minamitane, Kagoshima Prefecture.

“The moment when the rocket was launched and everybody was happy feels like a dream. I really wanted it to go well,” the 12-year-old said.

A live broadcast was shown on a large TV at the Kagoshima prefectural government office, where residents waited to see the launch.

“What a shame. That was disappointing,” said an 80-year-old Kagoshima man who was there with his wife. “I was hoping to see it succeed. I hope that the next one will be a success, for the sake of Japan’s dignity.”

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