Spaceflight Now: Breaking News

Pieces of failed Japanese rocket may have been found
Posted: Dec. 27, 1999

  MTSAT launch
The doomed Janapese H-2 rocket lifts off with the MTSAT satellite. The launch failed minutes later. Photo: NASDA
The deep-sea search for wreckage of last month's failed Japanese H-2 rocket has turned up what could be key engine plumbing, the Kyodo news agency reports.

The rocket's liquid-fueled main engine mysteriously stopped firing minutes after liftoff on November 15, forcing officials to blow up the H-2 and its Japanese communications and navigation satellite payload.

NASDA space agency opted to begin a search of the Pacific to locate the rocket's debris in hopes of determining what caused the malfunction.

On Friday the "Deep Toe" deep-sea probe found what appeared to be engine pipes on the seabed near the Ogasawara Islands, Kyodo reported.

The H-2 rocket impacted about 150 kilometers northwest of the Ogasawara Islands, or 1,250 km southeast of the launch site, according to NASDA.

The object, which lies on the seabed 2,913 meters down, was photographed by the "Deep Toe."

If the debris is identified as coming from the first stage engine, then the decision will be made to recover it.

Kyodo said the Space Activities Commission, Japan's top space-policy board, believes the launch mishap was caused by a broken liquid hydrogen fuel line.

But the commission is facing difficulties in determining which parts broke and what caused them to do so, commission sources said.

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