Blazing Glory

A Japanese rocket by startup Space One has exploded in spectacular fashion following a launch attempt earlier today.

It's yet another major setback for the company, which was hoping to become Japan's first commercial entity to launch a satellite into orbit, the New York Times reports.

Drone footage shows the dramatic scene. At first, everything appears to go fine as the solid-fuel rocket dubbed Kairos lights its engines. But it doesn't take long for the rocket to seemingly veer off path, erupting into a massive cloud of smoke just seconds later, causing major pieces of debris to rain down on the launch pad and engulf parts of the facility and a neighboring forest in flames.

Flight Termination

At a news conference following the attempt, Space One director Mamoru Endo revealed that the rocket automatically self-destructed after detecting an abnormality.

"The rocket terminated the flight after judging that the achievement of its mission would be difficult," company president Masakazu Toyoda told reporters, as quoted by Reuters.

The launch took place at Space Port Kii on Japan's main island. The 60-foot-long rocket is designed to carry up to 550 pounds into low-Earth orbit.

Kairos was carrying a spy satellite by Japan's Cabinet Satellite Intelligence Center, which was meant to serve as a backup satellite in case other government satellites were to go down.

While Space One is still struggling to become one of many private space companies to launch humanmade objects into orbit, the country's national space program has fared quite well recently. Case in point, the Japanese space agency managed to make a soft landing on the lunar surface with its Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) earlier this year, making Japan only the fifth country to do so.

It's unclear when Space One will try to launch its next rocket. But the company's unperturbed by its latest launch failure.

"We don't use the word 'failure', because each trial brings us... new data and experience for another challenge," Toyoda said.

"Rocket Lab, too, did not achieve its mission at the inaugural [Electron rocket] flight, but it went on to launch three rockets in its second year," he added, referring to the US-based rocket company, which ironically launched a Japanese satellite from its New Zealand launch site less than 24 hours ago.

"We can't stop here — we need to compete with this company," Toyoda said.

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