Japan’s Epsilon fails after liftoff, destroying smallsat payload

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SEOUL, South Korea — A Japanese Epsilon small launch vehicle failed to reach orbit during an Oct. 11 launch, resulting in the loss of all eight smallsats on board. 

The rocket lifted off on schedule at 8:50 p.m. Eastern from Japan’s Uchinoura Space Center carrying the RAISE-3 technology demonstration smallsat and seven secondary payloads. 

However, the rocket appeared to malfunction after its second stage shut down, 

and the Japanese space agency JAXA later said it sent a self-destruct command to the rocket seven minutes after liftoff as it deviated from its intended trajectory.

The failure was the Epsilon rocket’s first in six launches since its 2013 debut. 

JAXA, which is investigating the cause of the failure, said the solid rocket’s first two stages performed nominally before something went wrong around the time the third stage was due to fire. The self-destruct command issued at 9:57 a.m. local time sent the destroyed rocket and payload into the sea.

There were no immediate reports of injury or property damage caused by the launch failure, according to JAXA.