JAXA’s H3 rocket suffers second stage failure on inaugural launch

Last night Japan attempted to launch its H3 rocket carrying the Advanced Land Observing Satellites 3 (ALOS 3). However, while the first stage and solid rocket boosters performed nominally, the second stage failed to light.

A decade of work with step-by-step progress

JAXA and its partner Mitsubishi Heavy Industries have worked on the H3 rocket for about a decade. Its mission is to eventually replace the agency’s HIIA rocket currently launching. H3 is supposed to be able to compete against SpaceX’s Falcon 9 on cost. However, it has years before it can compete on launch reliability.

Monday’s launch attempt was delayed from Sunday due to the weather, and Sunday’s attempt was postponed from February due to a failure to igniting the SRBs at T-0. Yesterday there was no issue getting the rocket off the ground. The SRBs ignited and detached a couple of minutes after launch, and the core stage’s engines performed as expected. Around the time of first stage cutoff, however, the rocket appeared to tumble out of control.

Exactly what went wrong has not been confirmed by JAXA, and the only piece of information that the agency put out there was that a destruction command was sent to the rocket.

While the launch failure of H3 and the loss of the ALOS 3 payload is disappointing to see, it’s a step in the right direction. The H3 rocket sported a first of its kind engine on the core stage that, as far as we know, performed well in flight.

In a press conference after the failure, Japanese officials expressed regret and apologized for losing the mission, with a task force being stated needing to be formed. “Our top priority is to do everything we can to find the cause and regain the trust in our rockets,” JAXA President Hiroshi Yamakawa said.

H3 will also support Artemis

Japan is a member of the Artemis Accords and plans to participate in the Artemis Program by building components for the Gateway lunar outpost and hopefully sending crew. However, they might also provide rockets based on the H3 to the cause.

While NASA’s Space Launch System and SpaceX’s Starship rockets will be a big focus with their crewed launching and landing capacities, JAXA’s H3 could be used too. In addition, JAXA is preparing stretched and heavy variants that could be used for resupply cargo vehicles or parts of Gateway.

Currently, however, the focus is on the commercial versions of the H3 that we saw an attempt to launch yesterday. But cheering on for their success is also cheering on for the success of Japan’s support of Artemis.

Load more...
Show More Comments