TOKYO — As expected, the Japan Aerospace Development Agency selected Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Corp. (MHI) as the prime contractor for development and operations of Japan’s next-generation flagship rocket, the H-X, the organizations announced March 25. 

Development of the H-X, the successor to the current H-2A and H-2B rockets, will begin this year, with a first launch targeted for 2020. The total expected development cost of the vehicle, designed to be competitive on the international commercial launch market while also serving as the workhorse for Japanese government payloads, is $1.9 billion.

H-X will feature a liquid hydrogen/liquid oxygen core stage with up to six solid-fuel strap-on boosters to offer a wide range of payload-to-orbit capabilities. The solid boosters are based on the main stage of JAXA’s new Epsilon small satellite launcher, which debuted successfully in September.