The first launches of the new Japanese H3 launch vehicle are being delayed by issues with two components of the rocket’s main engine.
Executives of major launch companies said they doubted there was sufficient demand for more than a few small launch vehicle developers, citing their own efforts to provide rideshare launch services for smallsats.
The first half of 2020 has been sluggish for the commercial launch industry, but its problems can’t be explained solely by the coronavirus pandemic.
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries still expects to conduct the maiden flight of Japan’s H3 rocket this year, notwithstanding the coronavirus pandemic.
As Japan prepares to join NASA’s Artemis lunar program, the country’s largest rocket manufacturer says it could upgrade the H3 rocket debuting next year to deliver cargo to the moon as soon as 2025.
The launch of a Japanese cargo spacecraft to the International Space Station has been rescheduled for Sept. 24 after a launch pad fire scrubbed the original launch attempt earlier this month.
With the size and growth of commercial markets uncertain, launch companies are looking to government agencies to varying degrees for stability and funding for the development of new vehicles.
British satellite operator Inmarsat announced Dec. 5 it will be the first commercial customer of the next-generation H3 rocket from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries of Japan.
Seeking to double the number of launches it can conduct annually, Japan will add a second launch pad to the Tanegashima spaceport to support its next-generation H3 rocket.
Global satellite fleet operator Inmarsat said Sept. 12 that it has chosen Mitsubishi Heavy Industries to launch Inmarsat-6 F1 in 2020 aboard an H-2A rocket.
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, the prime contractor for Japan’s next-generation launch vehicle, the H3, says it is on schedule for a first launch in 2020, and will soon learn if the cost-cutting efforts pursued over the past three years will meet the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s goal of halving launch prices compared to the H-2A.