TOKYO, Sept. 11 (Xinhua) -- The scheduled launch of a rocket carrying an unmanned spacecraft bound for the International Space Station (ISS) was forced to be abandoned Wednesday as a fire broke out at the rocket launch pad.
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. said the fire broke out early Wednesday morning at the Tanegashima Space Center in Kagoshima Prefecture, southern Japan.
It said that around 3:05 a.m. local time the blaze was detected near the foot of the launch pad, near a vent on pad through which engine exhaust and flames are passed through as the rocket lifts off.
Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's (JAXA) Kounotori8 supply vessel was supposed to have lifted off using an H-2B rocket at 6:33 a.m. local time on Wednesday and deliver a payload of 5.3 tons of supplies to astronauts at the international space station.
"We feel great responsibility," said Atsutoshi Tamura, a Mitsubishi Heavy executive directing the launch.
It was the first time for such an incident, the company said, but providing the fire has caused no damage to the rocket or the single launch pad that can be used by the H-2B rocket at the space center, the launch can be rescheduled.
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries has not announced a new launch date, although sources close to the matter said the next launch could, at the earliest, be at the weekend.
JAXA said never before has a launch been delayed due to fire.
The space agency also said that the ISS was sufficiently stocked with food and other essentials, so the astronauts would not be overly affected by the incident.