Not only Russia, the United States and China have their own space rockets – Japan is also actively developing aircraft of this kind. Today, Japan’s most important rocket is considered to be the H-IIA (h-two-hey), which has successfully flown into space 38 times, but should be decommissioned in 2024. The last flight of this device will be carried out very soon, so it needs to be replaced. It is the H3 launch vehicle, which has been under development for a decade. In mid-February 2023, Japanese specialists tried to make a test launch of the new device, but it was canceled. On the morning of March 7, another attempt was made, but it also ended in failure – the mission control center gave the rocket a command to self-destruct. Let’s see what kind of rocket it is, why it still cannot successfully launch, and what advantages it has over analogues like the Falcon 9 from SpaceX.
Japan in the market for commercial rocket launches
The development of the Japanese H3 rocket began in 2013 – this is being done by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and Tokyo-based Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. According to Space News, $1.9 billion has been allocated for the development of the rocket. It is believed that the H3 rocket will be the most sophisticated of all that were created in Japan.
The main feature of the H3 rocket is the low cost of maintenance and launch – the developers are trying to ensure that in total it requires half the money than in the case of the already aging H-IIA rocket. It is currently expected that each H3 rocket launch will cost about $45 millionwhich is really beneficial. All this is necessary so that Japanese specialists can launch more often than usual. So they will be able to take orders from other countries and enter the global market for commercial launches.
Япония занимается не только разработкой собственной ракеты. В будущем она хочет построить базы на Луне и Марсе. Вот подробности.
The design of the Japanese launch vehicle H3
The H3 rocket will launch in different configurations to be able to fly to different heights and lift even very heavy loads.
It is believed that up to four SRB-3 solid rocket boosters can be installed on the first stage of the H3 rocket. It will also be possible to install up to three LE-9 liquid rocket engines – the main fuel components will be liquid hydrogen (fuel) and liquid oxygen (oxidizer).
The second stage of the H3 launch vehicle is equipped with one LE-5B-3 rocket engine, which also uses liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen as fuel.
To transport the payload, it will be possible to use short or long nose fairings with an internal diameter of 4.6 meters.
According to preliminary data, the standard version of the H3 rocket without solid-fuel boosters will be capable of delivering up to 4 tons of cargo to a sun-synchronous orbit at a height of 500 kilometers. In turn, the H3 launch vehicle with the maximum configuration will be able to deliver cargo weighing up to 6.5 tons to the geotransfer orbit.
Интересный факт: в 2022 году китайская ракета совершила неконтролируемое падение, из-за чего могли разрушиться города. Подробнее об этом происшествии читайте в нашем специальном материале.
Japan fails to launch H3 rocket
The first attempt to launch the H3 carrier rocket was carried out on February 17, at 04:37 Moscow time. The launch site was the space center on the Japanese island of Tanegashima, but the process was interrupted a few seconds before launch – two LE-9 engines fired, but one of the solid-fuel boosters failed. Later it became known that the reason for this was a failure in the system that is responsible for the power supply of the engines.
The second launch attempt from Tanegashima Island was made on March 7, but this time, too, nothing happened. The H3 launch vehicle took off into the sky, and Japanese experts gave the command to separate the second stage. However, the command to launch the second stage did not work for some reason. The flight leaders decided that there was no point in continuing the flight, and the command was given to the rocket to self-destruct.
During this launch attempt, not only the rocket itself was lost, but also its payload – one of the most sophisticated observation satellites Advanced Land Observing Satellite-3 (ALOS-3), which is also known as DAICHI-3.
Video of the launch of the Japanese H3 rocket on March 7, 2023
Representatives of Japan were upset by the unsuccessful launch of the H3 rocket. For example, the Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, Keiko Nagaoka, announced that the failure was “extremely regrettable.” She stressed that JAXA specialists will try very hard to identify the causes of what happened and correct the problems. The date of the next attempt to launch the H3 rocket is currently unknown.
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How the Japanese H3 rocket is better than the Falcon 9
Although Japan is very hopeful of entering the commercial rocket launch market, the H3 does not have many advantages over its competitors. Yes, a single rocket launch will cost about $45 million – less than the $61 million Falcon 9 rocket launch.
However, the Japanese rocket is disposable, while the SpaceX aircraft can be reused. In addition, companies have more confidence in Falcon 9, because to date it has successfully flown into space more than 170 times.
What do you think, will Japan be able to become a competitive participant in the space launch market? Share your opinion in our Telegram chat.