Bad weather forces the Japanese Aerospace Agency to postpone the launch of the second test flight of the main rocket – WSB-TV Channel 2
TOKYO – (AFP) – Japan’s space agency on Tuesday postponed the launch of a second test flight of its new main series H3 rockets scheduled for launch this week due to poor weather forecast at the launch site. This delay comes as Japanese space officials seek to ensure a successful launch, a year after the failure of the rocket’s first flight.
Thunder and strong winds are expected at the launch site at Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan, according to Masashi Okada, H3 project manager at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA. The launch was initially scheduled to take place on Thursday.
He added that the agency will set a new launch date on Wednesday.
The fiasco has sparked disappointment and uncertainty about Japan’s plans for space exploration, concerns that were exacerbated after a spacecraft designed by a Japanese company crashed during a lunar landing attempt in April.
The upcoming launch is a major test after Japan’s failed maiden flight last March, when the rocket had to be destroyed, along with the Advanced Earth Observation Satellite, or ALOS-3, that was carrying it.
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and its prime contractor Mitsubishi Heavy Industries have since identified and mitigated potential electrical problems that led to the failure to ignite the H3 rocket’s second stage engine, and have carefully rehearsed for the upcoming second test flight.
“We have had a turbulent year, but we have taken every measure possible,” Okada said.
Okada said the main goal of the mission is to put the missile on its intended path.
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency also aims to place the rocket’s payloads into the planned orbit, but this time, H3 will carry a 2.6-metric-ton mockup of the ALOS satellite, called VEP-4, instead of the real thing.
It will also carry two small observation satellites – one developed by Canon Electronics that can capture still and moving images with high-speed processing, and the other jointly developed by Seiren and several other companies and universities.
The launch of the H3 rocket has already been postponed for more than two years due to delays in engine development. The rocket is Japan’s first new series in more than two decades, and was developed at a cost of 220 billion yen (about $1.5 billion) by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries as a cheaper and more globally competitive successor to the Japanese brand’s H-2A. Which is scheduled to be retired after its next 50th release.
The H3 can carry larger payloads than the H-2A at half the launch costs and has a newly developed hydrogen-fueled main engine.
Expectations are rising after the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)’s historic precision landing last month of its spacecraft launched from an H-2A rocket, hoping that this will demonstrate Japan’s competitiveness with the United States and its rival, China. Earlier in January, the 48th H-2A rocket successfully placed a spy satellite into its planned orbit.
Mayuki Nitsu, Mitsubishi’s H3 project manager, said there is a growing demand for rockets that can launch constellations of satellites stably.
“We hope to achieve the success of the second H3 rocket and demonstrate our capability to our potential customers,” he said, adding that the H3 could be able to compete with major global players, such as SpaceX.