Jiji Press TANEGASHIMA, Kagoshima (Jiji Press) — A fire broke out near the launch pad of an H-2 B rocket at the Tanegashima Space Center in Kagoshima Prefecture in the small hours of Wednesday, forcing the liftoff of the rocket to be called off.
The fire, which occurred around 3:05 a.m. was almost extinguished in some two hours.
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd., which is in charge of the rocket project, canceled the launch, scheduled for 6:33 a.m., saying it will take time to examine the impact of the fire on the rocket.
According to the Japanese company, the fire is believed to have broken out near an opening at the bottom of the mobile launch pad. The opening is designed for the escape of smoke and fire emitted from the rocket’s main engine and four rocket boosters.
When the fire broke out, a prelaunch inspection was underway after the rocket, the H-2B Launch Vehicle No. 8 carrying an unmanned cargo spacecraft, was filled with liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen as fuel. There was no abnormality indicated in the monitor to detect fuel leakage.
The launch pad has also been used for the H-2B Launch Vehicle No. 1-No. 7.
A senior Mitsubishi Heavy official said none of its rocket launches had ever been canceled by a fire.
The company aims to identify the cause of the incident after removing the fuel and checking safety.
The latest H-2B rocket carries the Kounotori 8 unmanned cargo spacecraft of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA. The spacecraft was to deliver daily supplies, experimental apparatus and other goods to astronauts staying in the International Space Station.
According to JAXA, the ISS has sufficient stockpiles of food and other items, and the cancellation of the rocket launch will have no impact on the astronauts’ space missions for the time being.
Final preparations for the launch of the latest H-2B rocket started on Tuesday night after it was transferred to the launching point earlier in the day.
In September last year, the liftoff of the H-2B Launch Vehicle No. 7 was delayed for about a week after an abnormality was detected with a valve of the liquid oxygen tank for the rocket’s second-stage engine.Speech