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Japan’s Epsilon rocket engine explodes during test, raises concern for Japan’s space agency

The explosion occurred approximately one minute after the start of the second-stage engine test but caused no injuries.

New Delhi: In a setback for Japan’s space program, an engine of the Epsilon rocket exploded during a ground test, according to officials. The incident occurred approximately one minute after the start of the second-stage engine test.

The explosion, which occurred at the Noshiro Testing Center in Akita Prefecture, caused no injuries, as the Kyodo News Agency reported. The center, responsible for developing the Epsilon S, intended to succeed the current Epsilon series and enhance Japan’s competitiveness in the satellite launch market, as stated by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).

The Epsilon rocket series debuted in 2013, with five successful launches before encountering a setback. In 2022, an Epsilon-6 rocket had to be self-destructed when it deviated from its intended trajectory. This incident marked a significant deviation from the series’ previous achievements.

During the failed launch of the Epsilon-6, which took place at the Uchinoura Space Center near Kyushu’s southwestern main island, eight satellites developed by private and public entities, including universities, were onboard, according to Kyodo News Agency. However, due to the rocket’s failure to place the satellites in orbit, JAXA made the decision to initiate a self-destruct command at 9:57 am, just seven minutes after liftoff.

The consequences of this failure have prompted JAXA to postpone the launch of the Epsilon S from fiscal year 2023 to fiscal year 2024. This delay is attributed to using the same fuel tank as the Epsilon-6. The Epsilon series of rockets distinguishes itself by employing solid fuel, simplifying launch preparations compared to rockets using liquid propellants.

This recent incident adds to the challenges faced by Japan’s space agency. In March, JAXA’s new flagship H3 rocket was also compelled to self-destruct after its second-stage engine failed to ignite. The consecutive failures raise concerns and necessitate further investigation to identify and address the technical issues before future launches.