Another failed maiden takeoff! This time it’s the Japanese H-3 rocket…

Eric Bottlaender

Space specialist

March 07, 2023 at 4:30 p.m.


Japan JAXA H-3 rocket maiden liftoff failure © JAXA

The first seconds and even minutes were however encouraging. JAXA Credits

A long development and many precautions with two launch attempts have not changed anything: the inaugural launch of the japanese rocket H-3 ended in failure… Second stage did not turn on. An embarrassment and above all corrections to be applied quickly for the future of the national program.

Japan is counting on its new performances!

It’s not a failure, but it didn’t work

Already on February 17, the Japanese agency had held its breath. The countdown had reached zero for the new H-3 rocket, on its Tanegashima launch pad, but the on-board computer had ordered the engine to be extinguished and had not ignited the two auxiliary solid boosters. An electrical problem in a component of the first stage was in question, and the teams of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI, prime contractor for the launcher) thought they had solved all the problems. On March 7 at 2:37 a.m. (Paris), the second attempt this time led to takeoff, and the imposing launcher, 5.3 meters in diameter, took off. The conclusions are still preliminary, but it seems that the first stage fulfilled its role perfectly, including the action of the boosters, before separating from the upper stage, already far above the atmosphere. The second stage, unfortunately, appears to have failed to ignite its engine.

A premature end

The LM-5B-3 cryogenic engine that equips the second stage of the H-3 rocket is a significant evolution of the previous versions that Japan has used for more than 20 years on its H-2A and B space launchers. It has been qualified at test bench but obviously there was a major problem so that the ignition did not take place once in space. The Japanese teams collected as much data as possible, then proceeded to the controlled destruction of the floor using the backup system. The test satellite ALOS-3 (Advanced Land Observing Satellite-3) was of course destroyed in this failed attempt and did not reach orbit. It was intended for Earth observation in the optical domain with an on-board device capable of a resolution of 0.8m/pixel. This new failure is difficult for the Japanese space industry, especially since their only launch in 2022 with the small Epsilon launcher was also a failure.

Japan JAXA H-3 rocket pre-firing maiden liftoff © JAXA

H-3 will now have to prove itself on the second shot. JAXA Credits

First shot: is it normal to miss?

Take-off failures during inaugural launches are not uncommon: ABL Space’s RS-1 rocket in January 2023, India’s SSLV rocket in August 2022, China’s first methane launcher Zhuque-2 last December… And this are just a few examples. However, Japan hoped to successfully pass this test of the first launch into orbit thanks to extensive test campaigns carried out on the ground. Indeed, H-3 was to replace from this year the H-2A and H-2B launchers with better cost control and better performance, in particular to adapt it to the commercial market. It is eagerly awaited in particular to send the evolution of the Japanese HTV cargo ships (HTV-X) to the International Space Station or for the MMX probe which will leave to explore the moons of Mars, Phobos and Deimos, scheduled for 2024.

The Japanese agency JAXA and the industrialist MHI will investigate the causes of the failure, then attempt to quickly return to flight with this new launcher. But unless there is a trivial solution (or human error), it could take many months, or even more.

Source : Reuters

Source link -99