A Japanese firm breaking into the commercial space-flight industry had a dramatic setback when one of its rockets exploded, seconds after lift-off.
The 33-foot-tall Interstellar Technologies (IST) Momo Unit 2 rocket was launched from a pad at Taiki in Hokkaido prefecture, Japan on Saturday.
The rocket, powered by a blend of ethanol and liquid oxygen, lifted off as scheduled but lost momentum a few seconds into the flight, plunging back to the pad where the unburned fuel exploded in a huge fireball, according to Tokachi Mainichi News.
There were no injuries reported.
About 20 IST officials and employees were in a command center about 2,000 feet away from the launch pad. They were all evacuated safely.
IST President Inagawa told Tokachi Mainichi News, according to a translation: “I’m sorry for those who received support and cooperation, because I have data to investigate the cause, I want to continue the challenge.”
Company founder Takafumi Horie said: “We’ve crushed all technical problems, but we want to strengthen our backup system so that we can fully devote ourselves to improving for Unit 3.”
IST is one of the few Japanese aerospace firms challenging the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, Japan’s version of NASA.
IST launched Momo-1 in July 2017. That rocket broke up after traveling about six miles up.
Momo-2 was scheduled to launch in April, but was delayed when engineers discovered weakness in the rocket body.
No launch date has been set yet for Momo-3.
IST had hoped the rocket would reach an altitude of 62 miles.