Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. plans to eventually use its H3 rocket as many as six times a year to launch heavy payloads into orbit, the company told reporters Wednesday.
(Bloomberg) — Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. plans to eventually use its H3 rocket as many as six times a year to launch heavy payloads into orbit, the company told reporters Wednesday.
The H3 has yet to launch successfully. While it was supposed to make its inaugural voyage in February, a system malfunction kept it grounded. A second attempt weeks later ended dramatically when it was ordered to self-destruct, forcing the rocket and the satellite it carried to fall into the Philippine Sea.
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s H2-A rocket was launched successfully by MHI in September, carrying an advanced imaging satellite and a lightweight lander. It is expected to reach the moon as early as January. Although the H2-A has taken off 47 times with an almost perfect record, MHI said Wednesday it will be retired after its 50th launch. Only three of the rockets remain.
The sequence of failures for the agency, including with its smaller Epsilon rocket, have painted a discouraging year for Japan’s national space program. At the same time, the commercial space industry is growing and becoming increasingly reliant on payload rockets provided by Elon Musk’s SpaceX.
While an exact date hasn’t been announced, MHI and JAXA will be counting on the H3 when they attempt another launch early next year.
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