Although the H-IIA rocket, Japan’s premier launch vehicle, has a 98% launch success rate, inadequate upper-atmosphere wind conditions prompted a suspension 27 minutes before the scheduled liftoff.
“High-altitude winds hit our constraint for a launch… which had been set to ensure no impact from debris falling outside of pre-warned areas,” MHI H-IIA launch unit chief Tatsuru Tokunaga stated.
Strong gusts of about 108 kph (67 mph) were reported at a height of 5,000-15,000 metres (16400-49200 ft), according to Michio Kawakami, safety manager of Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). He stated that multiple typhoons in Japan could have influenced the wind conditions.
The new launch date has not been determined, but it will be no earlier than Thursday due to necessary activities such as refuelling, according to Tokunaga. According to MHI and JAXA, the launch could happen as late as September 15.
The rocket was scheduled to launch from JAXA’s Tanegashima Space Centre in southern Japan on Monday morning, but it had already been postponed twice due to inclement weather since last week. It will be the 47th H-IIA launched by Japan.
MISSION OF THE ‘MOON SNIPER’
The rocket carries JAXA’s Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM), the first Japanese spacecraft to land on the moon. In April, the Hakuto-R Mission 1 lander from Tokyo-based company ispace (9348.T) crashed on the lunar surface.
Following the completion of India’s Chandrayaan-3 moon exploration mission this month, JAXA planned to begin SLIM’s landing from lunar orbit in January-February 2024.
The SLIM mission dubbed the “moon sniper,” aims to execute a high-precision landing on the moon’s surface within 100 metres of its target – a technical jump beyond normal lunar landing accuracy of several miles, according to JAXA.
The rocket also carries an X-Ray Imaging and Spectroscopy Mission (XRISM) satellite, which is a collaboration between JAXA, NASA, and the European Space Agency.
H-IIA, co-developed by JAXA and MHI, has been Japan’s premier space launch vehicle since 2001, with 45 successful launches in 46 attempts. However, following the failure of JAXA’s new medium-lift H3 rocket on its debut in March, the agency postponed the launch of H-IIA No. 47 for many months to study the cause.
Despite its ambition of landing men on the moon in the late 2020s, Japan’s space missions have recently suffered setbacks, including the failure of the Epsilon small rocket in October 2022 and an engine explosion during a test last month.