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Japan’s Space Ambitions Face Challenges as H3 Rocket Test Falters

On 7 March, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) experienced a setback with the unsuccessful launch of the H3 rocket test vehicle No. 1. The second stage engine failed to ignite, preventing the mission from reaching the designated orbit.

During an interview, JAXA addressed the possibility of redeveloping DAICHI-3, an advanced optical satellite, which was installed on the H3 rocket. Designed as a successor to the Advanced Land Observing Satellite DAICHI, the new satellite’s high-performance sensors would satisfy the growing demand for Earth observation data.

JAXA President, Hiroshi Yamakawa, expressed concern over the failed attempt, stating that it would have significant repercussions on Japan’s space programme. He highlighted the necessity of exploring various solutions to recover from this setback.

When questioned about plans to develop a satellite akin to DAICHI-3, Mr Katsuhiko Hara, Deputy Director-General of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, said they were evaluating future satellite development in collaboration with other governmental bodies and private companies.

DAICHI-4, an advanced radar satellite intended to succeed DAICHI-2, is slated for installation on the second experimental satellite. The launch schedule for DAICHI-4 will be determined after a thorough analysis of the factors that contributed to the first test vehicle’s failure.

JAXA aims to restore confidence by resuming launches at the earliest opportunity. Mr Yasuhiro Funo, JAXA Executive Director and Launch Coordinator, acknowledged the impact of the first launch’s failure and emphasised the importance of conducting a prompt investigation and returning to flight.

Encouragingly, the first stage engines, inclusive of the newly developed LE-9 engine, appear to have functioned without any issues. JAXA remains optimistic about resuming launches as swiftly as possible.

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