Japan’s space agency aims to establish a successful launch business with its new H3 rocket

Japan’s space agency aims to establish a successful launch business with its new H3 rocket

Japan’s space agency, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), and its prime contractor, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI), are aiming to establish a lucrative launch business with their new H3 rocket. The H3 rocket completed its first successful flight last month, marking a significant milestone in the increasingly competitive market dominated by Space X.

The H3 rocket is being developed as the successor to the current mainstay H-2A rocket, which has a high success rate of 98% but struggles with high launch costs that make it less competitive globally. Mayuki Niitsu, MHI’s H3 rocket project manager, stated that the plan is to conduct at least six launches per year to meet the growing demand for communication, observation, and security satellites. Niitsu acknowledged the significant demand for rockets in the commercial market and the need for alternatives to Space X.

After a failed debut launch last year, the H3 rocket successfully reached orbit and released two small observation satellites on February 17. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries plans to take over H3 production and launches from JAXA, with hopes of making the project commercially viable. The rocket’s first and second stages were showcased to the media before being transported to the Tanegashima Space Center for final assembly.

The H3 rocket is designed to carry larger payloads than the H-2A at half the cost, aiming to become more globally competitive. Despite the relatively high launch cost of about 50 billion yen ($330 million), MHI officials are optimistic about achieving better price competitiveness after around a dozen launches. Niitsu highlighted the importance of providing flexible launch schedules and meeting clients’ needs to stay competitive in the market.

In January, a H-2A rocket successfully placed a spy satellite into orbit, followed by JAXA’s unmanned spacecraft SLIM making the world’s first “pinpoint” moon landing. These achievements underline Japan’s progress and ambition in the space industry.

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