New Japanese Rocket Is Destroyed During First Test Flight to Space

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Japan aims to build its own rockets and maintain an independent ability to carry payloads to orbit. The country’s current active rocket, H-IIA, is scheduled to complete additional flights in the coming year. The H3 rocket, built by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, is meant to replace that rocket and bolster Japan’s domestic spaceflight capabilities.

But Japan has struggled to field new rockets, said Kazuto Suzuki, a professor at the University of Tokyo’s Graduate School of Public Policy and a member of Japan’s national space policy committee.

While Japan has expressed interest in competing in the commercial market for rocket launches, its efforts have been over-engineered, he said, focusing on “technical excellence” rather than affordability and practical utility.

“I think this is a good occasion to start thinking about what went wrong with our launch development,” he said. “If you want to go for a more robust technology, more proven technology, you have to limit the changes.”

During Tuesday’s news conference, JAXA’s president, Mr. Yamakawa, said that the agency would have to emphasize “trustworthiness and transparency” as it seeks to make its launch program more attractive to potential customers.

Japan is not alone in having a new rocket fail on its first flight. In January, an American company, ABL Space Systems, lost the company’s first rocket shortly after liftoff from a launch site in Alaska. A Chinese company, Landspace, lost its Zhuque-2 rocket on its first orbital flight in December.

While the Japanese H3 rocket failed on Tuesday, another new rocket will be tested this week in the United States. On Wednesday, the American company Relativity Space will attempt the first launch of its Terran 1 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Fla.