H3 Fails on Second Debut Attempt

Image: JAXA

Last night, JAXA’s H3 rocket debut ended in failure. The Japanese space agency was forced to send termination commands to the launcher a few minutes into the flight, when the engine on the second stage failed to ignite.

The road so far: JAXA has been building the H3 rocket, intended as a less expensive successor to the H2-A, since 2013. The expendable rocket has similar lift capabilities to its predecessor and to the Falcon 9, and the agency originally targeted a price point of $51M per launch. H3 is intended to work for both commercial and government missions.

Since the H3 program began a decade ago, JAXA and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, the rocket’s prime contractor, have sunk $1.5B into development.

Kaboom: JAXA launched H3 last night at 8:37pm ET from Tanegashima Space Center. The rocket appeared to fly nominally at first, but about seven minutes after launch, commentators on the livestream reported that the rocket was losing velocity. 

The second stage engine had failed to ignite. 

Fourteen minutes into the flight, JAXA sent a destroy command. The second stage and its payload, the ALOS-3 EO satellite, fell into the ocean off the coast of the Philippines.

Looking forward: We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again—space is hard. 

“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 at a post-mission press conference. “We need to figure out what we should do to successfully achieve the next launch.”

Related Stories

Scout Space Taps ABL for Tech Demo Launch

Scout needs to get its Owl optical imaging system on orbit to prove it is the right product for information-hungry national security agencies.


Starship Splashes Down Successfully After Fourth Test Flight

The successful journey from Starbase to the Indian Ocean brought SpaceX many steps closer to its goal of reliable Starship flights with reusable hardware.


Europe’s Ariane 6 Gets Its Date With Space

Europe’s long-delayed Ariane 6 rocket will make its debut launch attempt on July 9, ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher announced Wednesday at the ILA Berlin Air Show. 


Indian Launch Startup Agnikul Notches First Suborbital Flight

Agnikul Cosmos, an Indian rocket startup, successfully launched its Agnibaan SOrTeD vehicle on a suborbital test flight mission Wednesday, marking another win for the Indian space sector that has already had a banner past 12 months.