Space One’s launch of its Kairos rocket ended in disaster as the 18-metre vessel exploded just seconds after liftoff. The attempt took place at the company’s launch pad in the picturesque Wakayama region of western Japan, where a small government test satellite was slated to be placed into orbit.

Eyewitnesses watched the rocket, intended to carry the satellite into space, erupt into flames shortly after takeoff. Live footage captured smoke rising into the remote mountainous area.

The aftermath of the blast saw burning debris surrounding slopes, triggering the activation of sprinklers to douse the flames. The cause of the failure remains under investigation.

Named after the Greek word for “the right moment,” the Kairos rocket was poised to orbit the satellite approximately 51 minutes post-launch. However, delays stemming from parts shortages and technical issues forced Space One to postpone the launch five times.

Despite the setback, Kushimoto’s mayor expressed surprise and disappointment but reiterated support for Space One’s endeavours.

Founded in 2018 by a consortium of major Japanese tech companies, including Canon Electronics, IHI Aerospace, Shimizu construction firm, and the government-owned Development Bank of Japan, Space One represents a significant player in Japan’s space sector.

The incident comes on the heels of another Japanese rocket failure, as the solid-fuel Epsilon S exploded during a test just months prior. However, Japan’s space agency recently celebrated a milestone with the successful launch of its new flagship rocket, the H3, following years of delays and previous failures. Moreover, Japan achieved a “soft landing” of an unmanned probe on the moon, solidifying its position as a formidable player in space exploration.