TOKYO (majirox news) – After unapologetically losing the Venus probe Akatsuki in a rogue orbit around the sun Dec. 6, JAXA, Japan’s blunder prone space agency, announced January 13 its intention to develop with Mitsubishi Industries a totally new three stage rocket capable of taking humans into outer space. Given its record, perhaps they’re also hoping for collective amnesia on the part of the Japanese taxpayer.
“While the government hasn’t made any decision to go ahead with a manned space program or not, we want to keep our research going,” said Tachikawa Keiji, head of JAXA, at the news conference.
Tachikawa did not say who was going to pay for the multi-billion dollar development bill in the face of Japan’s serious budgetary constraints, which have brought about a review at the highest levels of JAXA’s objectives and policies.
The new rocket will be called the H3, and it is hoped that it will fly for the first time by 2020. According to a JAXA spokesperson, the planned three-stage rocket will be based on newer technology and engines than the current H2A and H2B rockets.
“The rocket will be entirely liquid fueled, and as the basic concept behind the H2A series is now more than 30 years old, will concentrate on developing multiple new technologies for this rocket,” said the spokesman.
It is predicted the new rocket will have superior lifting power without the use of booster rockets, which will enable heavier space probes to explore the solar system than is possible at present. At the same time, it will offer superior reliability and safety necessary to carry manned vehicles to the International Space Station (ISS).
JAXA said, “The concept under development will enable launches to take place for 20% to 30% less than the current cost of H2A launches, which run in the 100 to 140 million dollar range.”
However, observers of JAXA’s programs noted that the same promises were made for the development of the H2A rocket in current use. The H2A, after a series of costly launch failures during development unparalleled by any other major space power ended up far exceeding even the most pessimistic budget estimates before becoming operational.
At a cost between 100 to 140 million dollars per launch, the cost of launching an H2A runs from 120% to more than double the cost of launching comparable payloads on the launch vehicles of other nations.
The Special Review Committee of the Japanese Space Program Strategic Planning Commission will be issuing their preliminary recommendations in June, which is not good timing to announce plans for a new launch vehicle. An H2B (an H2A rocket configured with additional solid fuel booster rockets) has a scheduled lift off for January 20 from Tanegashima, Japan. It will carry an HTV, which is designed to resupply the ISS. Let’s hope JAXA gets it right this time.