Strong winds stall launch of Japan H-IIA rocket

H-IIA rocket launch

H-IIA launch vehicle number 47 is seen on the launching pad at Tanegashima Space Center on the southwestern island of Tanegashima, Japan in this photo taken by Kyodo on August 28, 2023.

Japan’s space agency on Monday cancelled a scheduled launch of a rocket carrying the country’s first spacecraft to land on the moon, citing strong winds.

Although the Japanese flagship launch vehicle, the H-IIA rocket, has a 98% launch success history, inadequate upper-atmosphere wind conditions prompted a suspension less than 30 minutes before the intended liftoff.

“High-altitude winds hit our constraint for a launch, which had been set to ensure no impact from falling debris outside of pre-warned areas,” said Tatsuru Tokunaga, head of MHI’s launch section.

He noted that the new launch date has not been set, but it will be no earlier than Thursday due to necessary activities such as refuelling.

According to MHI and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), the launch could happen as late as September 15.

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The rocket was scheduled to launch on Monday morning from JAXA’s Tanegashima Space Centre in southern Japan; it had already been postponed twice due to inclement weather since last week.

It will be Japan’s 47th H-IIA.

The rocket will launch JAXA’s Smart Lander for Investigating the Moon (SLIM), the first Japanese spacecraft to land on the moon. The Hakuto-R Mission 1 lander of Tokyo-based firm iSpace (9348.T) crashed on the lunar surface in April.

Following Monday’s launch, JAXA planned to begin SLIM’s landing from lunar orbit in January-February 2024, hoping to replicate India’s Chandrayaan-3 moon exploration mission’s success.

The rocket also carries the X-ray Imaging and Spectroscopy Mission (XRISM) satellite, a collaboration between JAXA, NASA, and the European Space Agency.

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