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JAPANESE DOWNPLAY FAILURE OF SATELLITE

Japan's space agency, hoping to capture a share of the lucrative world satellite trade, put a brave face Thursday on the loss of the biggest satellite it has launched.

Officials said the loss of the experimental satellite into uncontrolled orbit was more a blow to the agency's pride than a major scientific and commercial setback.The launch of Kiku (chrysanthemum) No. 6 Sunday, which was abandoned to the heavens Wednesday, was intended to show that Japan's first home-grown satellite launcher, the H2, could do the same work as other commercial launchers.

The rocket worked but the satellite failed, losing $415 million of taxpayers' money. It was an experimental satellite and uninsured.

"It has nothing to do with the H2 rocket," National Space Development Agency (NASDA) spokeswoman Akiko Suzuki said Thurs-day. "The H2 mission went per-fectly. It put the satellite into orbit."

Engineers gave up on the satellite, Japan's largest ever, after an engine valve failed and it could not get onto a geostationary orbit as planned.

The cause of the hitch was not yet clear, but space experts said it was probably a random failure or a workmanship problem. The valve that went wrong was not a key hi-tech component.

"The real setback for the country is the failure to test some of the communications packages," said an official at a U.S. satellite company in Japan.