The launch of a new Japanese H-2A rocket, set for Wednesday, has been postponed for several hours due to a delay in loading fuel. The launch is being closely watched across Japan since the future of the country's space industry is at stake.

Technical problems have forced officials from Japan's Space Agency to postpone yet again the launch of the H-2A rocket, considered the centerpiece of the nation's space program.

The H-2A, which was developed at a cost of about $70 million by Japanese aerospace engineers, has been moved onto a launch pad on a small island near Kyushu in Southern Japan.

Officials say preparations were delayed early Wednesday because of a malfunctioning device related to loading rocket fuel. The launch was originally set for last Saturday, but was put off for a few days because of a faulty engine valve.

A successful launch is of the utmost importance to Japan. Its rocket program has suffered from a number of setbacks in the last few years. Since 1998, three rocket launches have ended in failure, leading to the loss of a number of contracts to launch satellites.

Japan wants to compete with the United States and Europe in providing satellite launch services. It would also like to launch its own satellites, both for commercial and intelligence gathering purposes.