A rocket being developed by the Japanese space agency exploded during testing on Friday, but there were no reports of injuries, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency said.

The cause of the accident at the facility in Akita Prefecture, northeastern Japan, was still being investigated, the agency, JAXA, said. It was unclear and when testing for the Epsilon S rocket could resume.

Japanese TV news footage from the site shows the test starting normally, with white smoke shooting out at the side. About a minute later, flames and gray smoke burst upward in an explosion, and the roof is seen blowing off a building.

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Japan explosion

Smoke rises as an engine for an Epsilon S rocket exploded during a test at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s testing site in Noshiro, Akita Prefecture, northeastern Japan, on July 14, 2023.
(Kyodo News via AP)

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The failure is a setback for JAXA’s ambitions to enter fully into the launch market for small satellites, a market that is expected to grow.

An Epsilon S demonstration launch had been scheduled for this fiscal year, but a launch attempt failed in May. JAXA’s launch of another kind of rocket called H3 failed in March.

But an earlier Epsilon has worked and managed to send several satellites into orbit.


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