Sunday, April 14, 2024

Japan successfully launches next-generation H3 rocket after failure in 2023

H3 rocket

TOKYO, FEBRUARY 17: Japan successfully launched its new H3 flagship rocket on Saturday, putting its satellite programme back on track after multiple setbacks including the failure of the rocket’s inaugural flight last year.
The launch also marks a second straight win for the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) after its moon lander, SLIM, achieved a “pinpoint” touchdown last month.
A relatively small player in space by number of launches, Japan is seeking to revitalise its programme as it partners with ally the United States to counter China.
The H3 had a “successful liftoff” at 9:22 a.m. Tokyo time (0022 GMT) and was “on course” with its engines properly working, JAXA said in a live broadcast that showed scientists clapping and hugging each other at the Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan.
All its payloads – 2 microsatellites and a dummy satellite – were successfully released, the agency later said.
The H3 will replace the 2-decade-old H-IIA. JAXA and primary contractor Mitsubishi Heavy Industries hope that its lower costs and greater payload capacity will help them win launch orders from global clients.
“This is really good. It’s taken some time for the programme to get to this point but with this launch they will be fielding inquiries from around the world”, said Ko Ogasawara, a Professor at the Tokyo University of Science.
The H3’s first flight in March ended up with ground control destroying the rocket 14 minutes after liftoff because its 2nd-stage engine failed to ignite. JAXA listed 3 possible electrical faults in a review released in October but could not identify the direct cause.
The 63 m (297 ft) H3 is designed to carry a 6.5 metric ton payload into space and reduce per-launch cost to as low as 5 billion yen ($33 million) by adopting simpler structures and automotive-grade electronics. By comparison, the H-IIA costs about 10 billion yen per launch.
The Government plans to launch about 20 satellites and probes with H3 rockets by 2030. The H3 is scheduled to deliver a lunar explorer for the joint Japan-India LUPEX project in 2025 as well as cargo spacecraft for the US-led Artemis moon exploration program in the future.
Satellite launch demands have skyrocketed thanks to the rise of affordable commercial vehicles such as SpaceX’s reusable Falcon 9 and a number of new rockets are being tested this year.
Last month marked the successful inaugural flight of the United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan rocket, a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin. The European Space Agency also plans to launch its lower-cost Ariane 6 for the first time this year.