On Tuesday, March 7, 2023, at 02:37 UTC, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) launched the new H3 rocket with a test flight. After a successful liftoff, a problem occurred during the ignition sequence of the second-stage engine. During the agency’s live streaming, the rocket’s telemetry could be seen falling fast. After a few minutes came the official announcement of the use of explosive charges to safely terminate the flight of the second stage.
Details of the launch and the payload
JAXA’s H3 rocket was developed and built primarily by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) with the cooperation of other Japanese industrial partners. The rocket consists of two main modules: a first propulsion stage equipped with two hydrogen and liquid oxygen engines and a second propulsion stage equipped with a single hydrogen and liquid oxygen engine. The rocket also has a four or five solid booster configuration that can be added depending on launch requirements. In addition, H3 is equipped with an advanced control system to ensure precise payload placement in orbit.
The main goal of JAXA’s H3 rocket is to provide a reliable and cost-effective launch vehicle for the Japanese and international space community. With a higher payload capacity than its predecessors.
For the first launch of this carrier, the ALOS-3 satellite was chosen as the payload. Also known as Advanced Land Observing Satellite-3 “DAICHI-3” is equipped with an onboard sensor designed to capture images with an improved ground resolution of 0.8 meters and a wide range of 70 km. With this capability, observations regularly cover all land areas of the world.
ALOS-3 has been developed to become a key tool for disaster management and countermeasures by local and central governments. With its unique imaging capabilities, the data collected is expected to lead to important advances in various fields. In particular, the satellite will contribute to the improvement of global geospatial information and monitoring of the coastal and vegetative environment.
Repercussions after the launch
After the loss of the second stage, it was decided that the rocket could not complete its mission, so the destruction command was sent, the debris would then fall into the ocean east of the Philippines as stated by JAXA.
Well preliminary telemetry analysis results of #H3TF1 are up: https://t.co/iz7Nf7D2P2— Cosmic Penguin (@Cosmic_Penguin) March 8, 2023
* Post stage sep, guidance DID issue 2nd stage engine ignition command (SEIG) & the engine controller DID receive it
* *An electrical system problem is confirmed around SEIG issuance* pic.twitter.com/2Z7crleKLo
In a statement, Science and Technology Minister Keiko Nagaoka announced that the government had formed a task force to investigate the “unfortunate” failure of the launch. The incident is expected to have significant repercussions for Japan’s space policy, space business, and technological competitiveness, according to Hirotaka Watanabe, an expert in space policy and a professor at Osaka University.
The failure of the H3 rocket launch was a blow to JAXA and Japan. However, we hope that the task force set up by the government will be able to solve all the problems that emerged and that experts will be able to learn from their mistakes to develop a new series of safe and reliable launchers. Importantly, the space sector is constantly growing, and 2022 and 2023 saw numerous prototypes and innovative rockets fail. This is a natural part of space exploration and a reminder that the road to innovation is often strewn with failures.