Japan resupply mission to space station delayed by launch pad fire

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TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan said it halted a resupply mission to the International Space Station (ISS) on Wednesday because of a launch pad fire that grounded the rocket.

A fire at the base of the of the launch pad Japan’s Tanegashima island broke out near a vent designed to carry engine exhaust away from the heavy-lift H2B rocket, according to a press release from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI), which is conducting the mission on behalf of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).

“We don’t yet have a new date for a launch, but it won’t be over the next couple of days,” an MHI spokesman said. “There shouldn’t be an impact on the ISS for now,” he added.

The unmanned Mitsubishi Heavy rocket had been loaded with 5.4 tons of supplies and equipment for the international station, including batteries and food for the six crew members, according to JAXA.

In a statement on its website the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) said it had informed the ISS crew and said they were “safe aboard the station and well supplied”.

Once emptied the supply pod is designed be filled with rubbish and detached from the space station to burn up on re-entry into the atmosphere.

Reporting by Tim Kelly; Editing by Michael Perry

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