Japan's first private satellite launch imitates SpaceX's giant explosions

KAIROS detonated a few seconds after clearing the launchpad

Video On another bad day for Japan's space industry, the nation's first private satellite launch failed within seconds of launch.

The first flight of the KAIROS – a rocket developed by private entity SPACE ONE – barely got off the pad before it was detonated by mission control.

Kairos has a single solid propellant motor, a liquid-fuelled upper stage, and the ability to hoist payloads up to 150 kilograms into a Sun-synchronous orbit at around 500km altitude. Payloads destined for low Earth orbit at the same altitude can weigh up to 250kg, provided they fit within the 1.5-meter diameter fairing.

SPACE ONE has developed single- and multi-satellite payload plans, and hopes to enter the commercial launch market as a "courier service."

That idea failed to launch today because Kairos exploded five seconds into flight – as shown in the video below, after the 37-minute mark.

Youtube Video

Local media report that the mission was aborted after striking unspecified trouble – qualifying the launch as less than a complete failure as it did not explode uncontrollably.

The rocket carried a payload for Japan's government, thought to be an experimental augmentation to its heavenly intelligence assets.

Japan's space program has seen mixed success of late. Some of its efforts – like the Hayabusa asteroid sample return mission – were stunning successes.

But when the national space agency's (JAXA's) SLIM lander touched down on the Moon in January this year, it landed on its side and was declared a "minimum" success. It did unexpectedly survive a lunar night, so that's a few more points in its favor.

Japan's also had trouble with recent launches – its planned new workhorse H3 rocket failed on its first flight in July 2023, following a similar fate for the normally reliable Epsilon in October 2022.

The H3 eventually made it into space in March.

Amid all that rocketry, JAXA was reminded that securing Microsoft products can be harder than rocket science when its Active Directory came under attack, following cyber attacks in 2016 and 2012.

JAXA is not to blame for SPACE ONE's problems, but like JAXA the upstart relies on input from Japan's industrial giants – many of which aspire to extend into the aerospace sector, but for now are falling back to Earth with worrying regularity. ®

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