Dramatic moment Japanese rocket engine explodes in huge fireball minutes into latest failed test to hit country’s space ambitions
During Friday’s test, the Epsilon S engine exploded about 50 seconds after ignition, an advanced version of the Epsilon rocket that failed to launch in October. Video shows the test site engulfed in flames and billowing smoke.
The dramatic moment a Japanese rocket engine exploded in a giant fireball less than a minute into the test was another blow to the country’s space ambitions.
The Epsilon S – an improved version of the Epsilon rocket that failed to launch in October – burst into flames on Friday ‘about 50 seconds after ignition,’ said Nawa Takegami, a science and technology ministry official.
The fire quickly turned the test site in the northern prefecture of Akita into a raging inferno as huge plumes of gray smoke rose into the sky.
“So far we have not received any reports of injuries” from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), which is investigating the cause of the explosion, Takegami said.
Footage showed flames burning through the side of the testing facility before a small building burst into flames, blowing the roof off in dramatic scenes.
At this point, a Japanese rocket engine exploded and burst into flames, another recent blow to the country’s space agency
The footage showed flames burning through the side of the testing facility before the smaller building on the right was engulfed in flames
The dramatic explosion created a huge plume of smoke over the test site in Akita, Japan
The shocking explosion created a huge plume of smoke that rose above a windmill near the site.
The glitch comes after Tokyo’s second failed attempt to launch its next-generation H3 rocket after liftoff in March and the failed launch of the solid-fuel Epsilon in October.
It was Japan’s first failed launch in nearly two decades, and the only model of an Epsilon rocket, which has had five successful launches since its debut in 2013.
In both cases, JAXA was forced to send a self-destruct command to the rocket.
The 57-meter (187 ft) tall H3 rocket has been touted as a potential rival to SpaceX’s Falcon 9.
But after reaching space, the rocket’s second-stage engine failed to ignite, forcing mission officials to manually destroy the vehicle 14 minutes into the flight. The wreckage would have landed in the East Philippine Sea.
The Epsilon is smaller than the country’s previous liquid-fueled model and is the successor to the solid-fuel ‘M-5’ rocket which was retired in 2006 due to its high cost.
JAXA said in May that the failed launch in October was due to a malfunction in a fuel pipe.
The latest setback comes after the failed launch of the solid-fuel Epsilon in October (pictured).
Tokyo saw its second attempt to launch its next-generation H3 rocket fail after liftoff in March (pictured)
Japan is planning to launch the Epsilon S rocket next year.
In April, lunar transport startup Espace saw its Hakuto-R vehicle crash on the lunar surface in the first soft-landing attempt by a private company.
Despite recent setbacks, the country’s space program is one of the largest in the world, and in October JAXA astronaut Koichi Wakata flew to the International Space Station as part of the Crew-5 mission.
Mr. Wakata is a robotics expert on his fifth trip into space.