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I Think I Found The Problem Here: The Rocket Blew Up

Japanese rocket kerplodes

Engineers are commencing an investigation into the failure of Japan's first private space launch Wednesday morning. It'll be a complex probe, examining each of the hundreds of complex systems and variables that go into modern rocketry, and the results aren't expected for some while. But I think I can save them both time and effort by identifying the issue: Your rocket blew up.

[Slaps prototype launch vehicle fuselage] Yeah, that baby really kerploded.

The rocket, launched by aerospace company Space One and intended to carry a spy satellite to orbit, did technically and briefly set the record for longest time aloft for a Japanese private company's launch: a couple seconds. This was less time than planned. But after reviewing the footage, and falling back on my decades of expertise, I've figured out why it didn't last longer: It went BLAMMO and turned into a big huge fireball.

Not to backseat launch, but if I were running things over there, I'd have advised them to build a rocket that doesn't explode. Doesn't.

The KAIROS rocket lifted off—well, did a little hop—Wednesday morning from Space Port Kii in the south of Japan, and as the company's first launch, things were deliberately kept basic. Sixty feet long and weighing 23 tons, KAIROS is a solid-propellant rocket, which requires more weight for fuel but is relatively simpler than liquid-propellant. Didn't matter. That sucker got like 10 feet off the ground before immolating on a pyre of its designers' hopes and dreams, raining fiery debris across the launch site. I mean, that thing really detonated.

Early indications were that the rocket self-destructed after detecting some anomaly. This is a standard safety measure if there's a chance its flight could become uncontrolled and thus risk crashing in a populated area. I would have recommended building one that didn't need to explode, and indeed didn't explode. But no one asked me.

Look, I get it. Space launches need to blow up from time to time, pour encourager les autres. But how hard could it be to construct and design a 23-ton mass of metal and circuitry that slips the crushing embrace of gravity, soars beyond the ken of man's sight but not his imagination, and settles into a stable low-earth orbit, once the province of gods alone? It's not rocket science.

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