TOKYO (AP) – The Japanese space agency said a rocket carrying eight satellites failed just after liftoff Wednesday and had to be aborted by a self-destruction command, in the country’s first failed rocket launch in nearly 20 years.
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency said its Epsilon-6 rocket experienced an unidentified “abnormality” and its flight had to be aborted less than seven minutes after takeoff from the Uchinoura Space Center in the southern Japanese prefecture of Kagoshima.
JAXA officials said the agency sent a self-destruction signal after deciding that the rocket was not able to fly safely and enter a planned orbit. They said the rocket was believed to have fallen into the sea with the payloads.
The cause of the failure was still being investigated, the agency said.
The Epsilon rocket was carrying eight payloads, including two developed by a private company based in Fukuoka, another southern prefecture. It was the first time an Epsilon rocket carried commercially developed payloads.
The 26-meter (85-foot) -long, 95.6-ton and solid-fuel Epsilon-6 rocket is the final version before JAXA plans to develop another variation, Epsilon-S. After five upgrades since the early 2010s, the Epsilon-6 is designed for a compact launch as JAXA aims to develop a commercial satellite launch business.
Wednesday’s failure ended success records for the Epsilon series since its first launch of the original version in 2013. It was also a first for JAXA since its H2A rocket failed in 2003.
The launch, originally scheduled for last Friday, had been delayed due to the location of a positioning satellite in space.