H3 Rocket

The H3 rocket, also known as the H3 Launch Vehicle, is a new rocket developed by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). The rocket is designed to replace the H-IIA rocket, which has been in use since 2001. The H3 is a two-stage rocket and is capable of carrying a payload of up to 6.5 tons to geostationary orbit.

Engine Failure During Liftoff

On February 15, 2022, the H3 rocket suffered an engine failure during liftoff from the JAXA Tanegashima spaceport. The rocket was carrying the ALOS-3 satellite, which included an experimental infrared sensor for detecting North Korean ballistic missile launches. The H3 rocket’s onboard computer detected a problem with one of the engines and shut it down. JAXA then sent a self-destruct signal to the rocket to prevent it from crashing back to Earth.

Impact on ALOS-3 Mission

The ALOS-3 satellite is a crucial part of Japan’s intelligence-gathering efforts, especially with regard to North Korea’s missile program. The satellite is equipped with a high-resolution radar system that can capture images in all weather conditions, including at night. The satellite was also carrying an experimental infrared sensor that was designed to detect the heat signatures of North Korean ballistic missile launches. The loss of the satellite is a significant setback for Japan’s national security efforts.

Objectives of the H3 Rocket

The H3 rocket’s main objective is to lift government and commercial satellites into Earth orbit. The rocket is also designed to provide supplies to the International Space Station and eventually carry cargo to the Gateway lunar space station. The rocket is part of Japan’s efforts to increase its presence in the global launch market, which is currently dominated by SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket.

Cost Advantage of the H3 Rocket

One of the key advantages of the H3 rocket is its lower cost per launch. The H3 rocket is estimated to cost between $50 million and $70 million per launch, while the Falcon 9 rocket costs around $62 million per launch. This lower cost per launch offers a competitive advantage in the global launch market, making it an attractive option for satellite launches.

Future Plans for the H3 Rocket

Despite the recent setback, JAXA is committed to continuing the development of the H3 rocket. JAXA plans to conduct another test flight of the H3 rocket in late 2022 or early 2023. The rocket’s first commercial launch is currently scheduled for 2023. JAXA is also planning to develop a larger version of the H3 rocket, known as the H-X, which will be capable of carrying larger payloads to geostationary orbit.

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