Japan's flagship H3 rocket launch ends in failure

Japan's launch of its new flagship H3 rocket ended in failure after the second-stage engine didn't ignite and the mission was aborted.

The H3 lifted off from the Tanegashima Space Center in southwestern Japan at 10:37 a.m. Tuesday on what was to be its maiden flight. It was scheduled to place an Earth observation satellite into orbit about 17 minutes later at an altitude of about 675 kilometers.

According to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA, about eight minutes after liftoff it was announced that ignition of the second-stage engine had not been confirmed.

At around 10:52 a.m., it was announced that the rocket had been ordered to self-destruct. JAXA is investigating the cause of the problem.

The last failed launch took place in October and involved the Epsilon-6 rocket.

The H3 is a successor to the H2A. The new flagship rocket is Japan's largest with a maximum height of 63 meters.

It is the first large rocket that Japan has developed in about 30 years. The aim was to increase payload capacity to 1.3 times that of the H2A, while cutting the current launch cost by roughly half.

Co-developers JAXA and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries have spent more than 200 billion yen, or about 1.5 billion dollars, since they launched the project nine years ago.

The first H3 rocket was initially slated to lift off in fiscal 2020. But the date was pushed back due partly to difficulties with the development of the new main engine.

The rocket was scheduled to launch on February 17, but liftoff was aborted due to an anomaly detected in the first-stage system. JAXA said measures had been taken to address the problem.

Tuesday's failed launch is likely to have a considerable impact as the H3 rocket is considered key to Japan's future space development.