By Kantaro Komiya and Rocky Swift
TOKYO (Reuters) -Japan’s space agency suspended a planned launch on Monday of an H-IIA rocket that was to carry a moon lander into space, according to operator Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI).
The launch was cancelled because of unsuitable wind conditions in the upper atmosphere, MHI’s launch services unit said in a post on social media site X, formerly known as Twitter, 24 minutes before the planned launch time.
The H-IIA No. 47 rocket was to be launched from Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)’s Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan at 9:26 a.m. local time (0026 GMT) on Monday.
MHI will provide further details, JAXA said during its YouTube livestream.
The rocket is carrying JAXA’s Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM), which would be the first Japanese spacecraft to land on the moon. Tokyo-based startup ispace’s lunar lander Hakuto-R Mission 1 failed in April.
JAXA was planning to start SLIM’s moon landing in January-February 2024 after Monday’s launch, aiming to follow the success of India’s Chandrayaan-3 lunar exploration mission this month.
The rocket was also carrying an X-Ray Imaging and Spectroscopy Mission (XRISM) satellite, a joint project of JAXA, NASA and the European Space Agency.
H-IIA, jointly developed by JAXA and MHI, has been Japan’s flagship space launch vehicle, with a success rate of 98% since 2001. However, after JAXA’s new medium-lift H3 rocket failed on its debut in March, the agency postponed the launch of H-IIA No. 47 for several months to investigate the cause.
Japan’s recent space-related efforts have faced other setbacks, with the launch failure of the Epsilon small rocket in October 2022, followed by an engine explosion during a test last month.
(Reporting by Kantaro Komiya and Rocky Swift; Editing by Kim Coghill and Gerry Doyle)