Japanese smallsat rocket explodes on second launch attempt

by

JAKARTA, Indonesia  — Japanese startup Interstellar Technologies’ Momo-2 rocket crashed back to Earth seconds after liftoff, destroying the vehicle and damaging launch pad infrastructure.

Hokkaido, Japan-based Interstellar Technologies was attempting its second launch of the vehicle June 29. No one was injured in the ensuing explosion, the company said.

Interstellar Technologies’ Momo-2 is designed to carry 20 kilograms of payload up 100 kilometers — an altitude called the Karman Line that is often considered the beginning of space — followed by a parachute recovery.

In a June 30 tweet, Interstellar Technologies said it is investigating the cause of the failure and will provide updates when available.

Momo-2 is Japan’s first privately developed sounding rocket, and is designed to provide two to six minutes of microgravity. Interstellar Technologies attempted a first launch last year, but the rocket only reached an altitude of 20 kilometers.

Momo-2 burns ethanol and liquid oxygen for fuel, and features an engine, avionics and other components built in-house by Interstellar Technologies. The company is using its work on Momo-2 to also develop an orbital vehicle called Zero for 100 kilogram smallsat missions to low Earth orbit.