Japan rocket self-destructs

TOKYO (AFP) — Japan’s space agency said it sent a self-destruct order to its Epsilon rocket after a failed launch on Wednesday because of a problem that meant the craft could not safely fly.

The unmanned rocket, on its sixth mission, was taking satellites into orbit to demonstrate “innovative” technologies.

“The rocket can’t continue a safe flight, because of the danger it would create if it falls on the ground,” a JAXA official said in televised comments.

“So we took measures to avoid such an incident, and we sent the signal (to destroy the rocket),” he said, adding that information on the cause of the issue was not immediately available.

It was Japan’s first failed rocket launch since 2003, and public broadcaster NHK said the self-destruct order was issued around 10 minutes after liftoff.

In the last failed space rocket take-off, the country aborted the launch of a pair of spy satellites to monitor North Korea.

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