From plants to pocket-sized radios, Japan has a long history of miniaturisation, but its first attempt to shrink a satellite-launching rocket has ended with the launcher ditching into the sea.
The 2.6-tonne SS-520-4, about the size of a power pole, is a sounding rocket platform JAXA had hoped would set the record for the smallest rocket to carry a satellite to space. Off the shelf, the SS-520 is a two-stage affair just 10 metres long and 50 cm wide that in its standard spec can carry 140 kg to an altitude of around 800 km.
Japan's space agency JAXA hoped adding a third stage would let the SS-520-4 reach 2,000 km to launch a cubesat.
As Japan Times reports, Sunday's launch from the Uchinoura Space Center in Kagoshima Prefecture started well.
However, three minutes into the launch, the rocket stopped sending telemetry, prompting mission operators to abort the firing of the second stage. The rocket ditched in the sea southeast of Uchinoura.
The rocket was carrying the TRICOM-1 cubesat, carrying store-and-forward communications and an Earth imaging camera built by the University of Tokyo.
Alas, JAXA told Japan Times it has no current plans to repeat the experiment. ®