First commercial launch of Japan’s H3 rocket set for 2022

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Mitsubishi Heavy Industries has said development and testing of its H3 rocket is progressing steadily after communications satellite company Inmarsat committed to be the first user of the launch vehicle.

The H3 is a 63m (205ft) tall, two-stage liquid-propellant rocket that can accommodate up to four solid rocket boosters and two types of fairing. The H3 is intended to launch commercial satellites of up to 6,500kg (14,300 lb). Its maiden launch is planned for 2020.

The Japanese rocket has been in development since 2014 at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) Tanegashima Space Center in the south-east of Japan. Testing of its LE-9 engine has been conducted there since April 2017.

In a milestone for the development program, this week Inmarsat said it is planning to deploy the launch vehicle from 2022 and become the first user of the H3.

Inmarsat already uses Mitsubishi Heavy Industries’ (MHI) rockets and awarded a launch services contract to MHI for the H3’s predecessor, the H-IIA Launch Vehicle, in 2017.

Rupert Pearce, CEO of Inmarsat, said, “We are delighted to be announcing that we are the first commercial customer to select MHI’s new H3 launch vehicle. We believe that H3 represents a world-class innovation and one that will deliver an effective and efficient service to place future Inmarsat satellites into orbit.”

Masahiro Atsumi, vice president and senior general manager for space systems at MHI, said, “Development of the H3 Launch Vehicle is proceeding steadily under the leadership of JAXA, with MHI serving as the primary contractor working closely with key component manufacturers.

“We appreciate the high evaluation made by Inmarsat during this development phase and we will do everything possible to ensure that development results in a new flagship launch vehicle fully meeting the customer’s high expectations.”

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Ben has worked all of his career as a journalist and now editor, covering almost all aspects of technology, engineering and industry. In the last 16 years he has written on subjects from nuclear submarines and autonomous cars to future design and manufacturing technologies and commercial aviation. Latterly editor of a leading engineering magazine, he brings an eye for a great story and lots of experience to the team.

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