New next-generation rocket to be Japan’s most powerful yet

New next-generation rocket to be Japan’s most powerful yet

The basic performance of a new flagship rocket which the government has been developing with the goal of an inaugural launch in fiscal 2020 was revealed on Thursday.

The new rocket will be able to launch satellites of six to seven tons into geostationary orbit at an altitude of 36,000 kilometers, an improvement on the 4.6-ton capability of the current mainline H2A rocket.

Launch costs will be reduced to about ¥5 billion, or half the cost of an H2A launch, by a streamlined system from production to launch. Its size will make it the nation's largest rocket ever, with a height of about 63 meters.

Stationary satellites have been becoming larger recently to extend their operation time, and the H2A rocket has difficulty in handling such large satellites.

Although the H2B launch vehicle, an upgraded version of the H2A, is able to carry a maximum load of a 5.5-ton stationary satellite, this rocket has achieved few results, only used to launch the Kounotori supply transfer vehicle to the International Space Station.

The nation's next-generation rocket is set to be provided with two or three first-stage engines, and three patterns of zero, two or four solid rocket boosters attached to the lower part of the rocket.

The launch vehicle will be built to handle various demands such as carrying large stationary satellites or small ones to low orbit or launching the Kounotori spacecraft by increasing or decreasing the number of identical booster engines.

The government plans to reduce costs by standardizing rocket parts.

The Tanegashima Space Center will also be renovated to enable the rocket to be placed on its side for maintenance to promote work efficiency.

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