Startups

JAXA launch for HTV-8 cargo mission to International Space Station officially scrubbed

Comment

During a press conference held just after 6 AM JST, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Launch Director Atsutoshi Tamura and the Director of JAXA’s Tanegashima Space Center Takeshi Fujita detailed what the two partners knew so far about the cause of their aborted HTV-8 mission on Tuesday.

The launch, scheduled to take place at 6:33 AM JST, instead was officially scrubbed at around 4:34 AM JST due to a fire on the mobile launcher upon which the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries H-IIB rocket was sitting ready for launch. The fire began at 3:05 AM JST according to Tamura, and efforts began immediately to extinguish it immediately, with the fire finally being completely put out (as far as JAXA and MHI can tell) by 5:10 AM JST.

So far, all that is known about the fire is that it occurred in a small hole in the platform located between the third and fourth solid propellant boosters, which is designed to provide a venting channel for fire put out by the rocket’s engines when it’s operating normally during launch. This aperture is made of metal, and surrounded by fire retardant materials, which makes it very unlikely for it to catch fire normally. Both Tamura and Fujita confirmed that this specific situation has not happened previously with any prior launches.

The actual cause of the fire remains unknown, and so far, JAXA and MHI staff have not been able to approach the launch vehicle for a closer inspection due to safety considerations. They are confident based on observation from a distance that they’ve succeeded in putting the fire out, and anticipate being able to approach the rocket later today to perform an in-person inspection.

The vehicle was fully fueled when the fire began, but the fuel was quickly siphoned out when the fire was discovered. It’s not yet clear what damage to the launch vehicle has resulted from the incident. The cargo, which included a significant amount of supplies for ISS astronauts, doesn’t initially appear to have been damaged but further inspection will be required, per MHI and JAXA. There isn’t an urgent need for those supplies, however, JAXA confirms.

At the very earliest, the next launch attempt will be September 17, MHI shared, but this date is highly dependent on the results of the investigation into the cause of the fire.

The original article, including updates, follows below.

[Update 09/11/19 4:34 AM JST: JAXA and MHI confirm the launch is scrubbed for today. We’ll find out more at a press conference at 6 AM JST, including whether there is any chance of making an attempt in the backup window.]

[Update 09/11/19 4:07 AM JST: JAXA and MHI confirm that there is a fire on the Mobile Launcher upon which the H-IIB is loaded to roll out to the launch pad. The fire, described as ‘small,’ started at 3:10 AM JST and continues as of this writing at 4:07 AM JST, while attempts are underway to extinguish it, as you can see in the photo captured on site by TechCrunch below. We’ll provide more updates as they become available.]

DSC00508

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries’s Launch Services division is all set to send a crucial cargo payload to the International Space Station from JAXA today. The launch is scheduled for 6:33 AM Japan Standard Time (5:33 PM ET/2:33 PM PT), and will take off from Tanegashima Island, at JAXA’s Tanegashima Space Center.

The rocket used for this launch is the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) H-IIB, and this is the eighth flight launch of the H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV) that MHI designed and built in Japan.

In the H-IIB configuration, the MHI-built rocket that will transport he HTV includes a liquid propellant central core, along with four solid propellant rocket boosters to give it additional life capacity. This particular mission will see the HTV loaded with 5.3 metric tons (just under six U.S. tons) of supplies for the ISS on board in both pressurized and unpressurized cargo containers, which divvy up the total capacity.

MHI H IIB HTV8 10

One of the crucial pieces of cargo going up is a small satellite deployment device, called “Kibo,” created by the Kyushu Institute of Technology and the National Authority for Remote Sensing and Space Science. It’ll be used to deploy a range of super compact CubeSats also on board, including a propulsion tech demo created by the University of Tokyo and startup Space BD, which is the first company awarded a contract by JAXA to be the commercial operator for deploying smallsats from the ISS via Kibo.

NASA TV will be carrying the launch live via the stream above, with their coverage kicking off around 5 PM ET (2 PM PT/6 AM JST).

Disclosure: MHI covered the travel costs associated with this launch.

More TechCrunch

Meta’s Oversight Board has now extended its scope to include the company’s newest platform, Instagram Threads, and has begun hearing cases from Threads.

Meta’s Oversight Board takes its first Threads case

The company says it’s refocusing and prioritizing fewer initiatives that will have the biggest impact on customers and add value to the business.

SeekOut, a recruiting startup last valued at $1.2 billion, lays off 30% of its workforce

The U.K.’s self-proclaimed “world-leading” regulations for self-driving cars are now official, after the Automated Vehicles (AV) Act received royal assent — the final rubber stamp any legislation must go through…

UK’s autonomous vehicle legislation becomes law, paving the way for first driverless cars by 2026

ChatGPT, OpenAI’s text-generating AI chatbot, has taken the world by storm. What started as a tool to hyper-charge productivity through writing essays and code with short text prompts has evolved…

ChatGPT: Everything you need to know about the AI-powered chatbot

SoLo Funds CEO Travis Holoway: “Regulators seem driven by press releases when they should be motivated by true consumer protection and empowering equitable solutions.”

Fintech lender SoLo Funds is being sued again by the government over its lending practices

Hard tech startups generate a lot of buzz, but there’s a growing cohort of companies building digital tools squarely focused on making hard tech development faster, more efficient and —…

Rollup wants to be the hardware engineer’s workhorse

TechCrunch Disrupt 2024 is not just about groundbreaking innovations, insightful panels, and visionary speakers — it’s also about listening to YOU, the audience, and what you feel is top of…

Disrupt Audience Choice vote closes Friday

Google says the new SDK would help Google expand on its core mission of connecting the right audience to the right content at the right time.

Google is launching a new Android feature to drive users back into their installed apps

Jolla has taken the official wraps off the first version of its personal server-based AI assistant in the making. The reborn startup is building a privacy-focused AI device — aka…

Jolla debuts privacy-focused AI hardware

OpenAI is removing one of the voices used by ChatGPT after users found that it sounded similar to Scarlett Johansson, the company announced on Monday. The voice, called Sky, is…

OpenAI to remove ChatGPT’s Scarlett Johansson-like voice

The ChatGPT mobile app’s net revenue first jumped 22% on the day of the GPT-4o launch and continued to grow in the following days.

ChatGPT’s mobile app revenue saw its biggest spike yet following GPT-4o launch

Dating app maker Bumble has acquired Geneva, an online platform built around forming real-world groups and clubs. The company said that the deal is designed to help it expand its…

Bumble buys community building app Geneva to expand further into friendships

CyberArk — one of the army of larger security companies founded out of Israel — is acquiring Venafi, a specialist in machine identity, for $1.54 billion. 

CyberArk snaps up Venafi for $1.54B to ramp up in machine-to-machine security

Founder-market fit is one of the most crucial factors in a startup’s success, and operators (someone involved in the day-to-day operations of a startup) turned founders have an almost unfair advantage…

OpenseedVC, which backs operators in Africa and Europe starting their companies, reaches first close of $10M fund

A Singapore High Court has effectively approved Pine Labs’ request to shift its operations to India.

Pine Labs gets Singapore court approval to shift base to India

The AI Safety Institute, a U.K. body that aims to assess and address risks in AI platforms, has said it will open a second location in San Francisco. 

UK opens office in San Francisco to tackle AI risk

Companies are always looking for an edge, and searching for ways to encourage their employees to innovate. One way to do that is by running an internal hackathon around a…

Why companies are turning to internal hackathons

Featured Article

I’m rooting for Melinda French Gates to fix tech’s broken ‘brilliant jerk’ culture

Women in tech still face a shocking level of mistreatment at work. Melinda French Gates is one of the few working to change that.

1 day ago
I’m rooting for Melinda French Gates to fix tech’s  broken ‘brilliant jerk’ culture

Blue Origin has successfully completed its NS-25 mission, resuming crewed flights for the first time in nearly two years. The mission brought six tourist crew members to the edge of…

Blue Origin successfully launches its first crewed mission since 2022

Creative Artists Agency (CAA), one of the top entertainment and sports talent agencies, is hoping to be at the forefront of AI protection services for celebrities in Hollywood. With many…

Hollywood agency CAA aims to help stars manage their own AI likenesses

Expedia says Rathi Murthy and Sreenivas Rachamadugu, respectively its CTO and senior vice president of core services product & engineering, are no longer employed at the travel booking company. In…

Expedia says two execs dismissed after ‘violation of company policy’

Welcome back to TechCrunch’s Week in Review. This week had two major events from OpenAI and Google. OpenAI’s spring update event saw the reveal of its new model, GPT-4o, which…

OpenAI and Google lay out their competing AI visions

When Jeffrey Wang posted to X asking if anyone wanted to go in on an order of fancy-but-affordable office nap pods, he didn’t expect the post to go viral.

With AI startups booming, nap pods and Silicon Valley hustle culture are back

OpenAI’s Superalignment team, responsible for developing ways to govern and steer “superintelligent” AI systems, was promised 20% of the company’s compute resources, according to a person from that team. But…

OpenAI created a team to control ‘superintelligent’ AI — then let it wither, source says

A new crop of early-stage startups — along with some recent VC investments — illustrates a niche emerging in the autonomous vehicle technology sector. Unlike the companies bringing robotaxis to…

VCs and the military are fueling self-driving startups that don’t need roads

When the founders of Sagetap, Sahil Khanna and Kevin Hughes, started working at early-stage enterprise software startups, they were surprised to find that the companies they worked at were trying…

Deal Dive: Sagetap looks to bring enterprise software sales into the 21st century

Keeping up with an industry as fast-moving as AI is a tall order. So until an AI can do it for you, here’s a handy roundup of recent stories in the world…

This Week in AI: OpenAI moves away from safety

After Apple loosened its App Store guidelines to permit game emulators, the retro game emulator Delta — an app 10 years in the making — hit the top of the…

Adobe comes after indie game emulator Delta for copying its logo

Meta is once again taking on its competitors by developing a feature that borrows concepts from others — in this case, BeReal and Snapchat. The company is developing a feature…

Meta’s latest experiment borrows from BeReal’s and Snapchat’s core ideas

Welcome to Startups Weekly! We’ve been drowning in AI news this week, with Google’s I/O setting the pace. And Elon Musk rages against the machine.

Startups Weekly: It’s the dawning of the age of AI — plus,  Musk is raging against the machine