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Bad weather forces Japan’s space agency to delay launch of second test-flight of flagship rocket

TOKYO (AP) — Japan’s space agency on Tuesday postponed the launch of a second test flight of its new flagship rocket H3 series planned for this week because of bad weather forecast at the launch site. The delay comes as Japanese space officials scramble to ensure a successful liftoff, a year after the rocket’s failed debut flight.

Thunder and strong wind were predicted at the launch site on the Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan, according to Masashi Okada, H3 project manager at Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA. The launch was initially planned for Thursday.

The agency will decide a new launch date as early as Wednesday, he said.

The upcoming launch is considered a key test after Japan’s failed debut flight last March, when the rocket had to be destroyed, along with the advanced land observation satellite, or ALOS-3, it was carrying.

The fiasco triggered disappointment and uncertainty about Japan’s space exploration plans, concerns that were compounded after a spacecraft designed by a Japanese company crashed during a lunar landing attempt in April.

JAXA and its main contractor Mitsubishi Heavy Industries have since identified and mitigated the possible electrical issues that led to the failure to ignite H3 rocket’s second-stage engine, and carefully rehearsed for the upcoming second test flight.

“We had a year of turbulence, but we have taken all possible measures we could,” Okada said.

Okada said the main mission goal is to put the rocket into the intended trajectory.

JAXA also aims to place the rocket’s payloads into the planned orbit but this time, the H3 will carry a 2.6-metric ton mockup of the ALOS satellite, called VEP-4, instead of the real thing.

It will also carry two observation