Japan’s space agency said it sent a self-destruct order to its Epsilon rocket after a failed launch on Wednesday due to a problem that prevented the spacecraft from flying safely.
The unmanned rocket, designed to launch in three stages, was launching several satellites into orbit on its sixth space mission.
“The rocket cannot continue a safe flight, due to the danger it would create if it hit the ground,” a JAXA official said in comments broadcast on TBS television.
“So we took measures to prevent such an incident and sent the signal (to destroy the rocket),” he said, adding that information about the cause of the problem was not immediately available.
Public broadcaster NHK and other media outlets said it was the first failed rocket launch in Japan since 2003.
A JAXA live broadcast of the launch from the Uchinoura Space Center in the southern region of Kagoshima was interrupted and the presenters said there was a problem, without elaborating.
The solid-fuel Epsilon rocket has been in service since 2013.
It is smaller than the country’s previous liquid-fuel model and a successor to the “M-5” solid-fuel rocket that was withdrawn in 2006 due to its high cost.
One of the satellites carried by the rocket, called RAISE-3, was supposed to orbit Earth for at least a year, according to a NASA article about the launch.