Tag Archives: H-2A

Mitsubishi wins launch contract from Inmarsat

Capitalism in space: Mitsubishi has been awarded a commercial launch contract from Inmarsat.

Recent Inmarsat satellites have launched on Proton, Falcon 9, and Ariane 5 rockets operated by International Launch Services, SpaceX and Arianespace. MHI [Mitsubishi Heavy Industries] has positioned the H-2A as a secondary player in the global launch market, and the Inmarsat 6 F1 contract gives the Japanese company its second commercial telecom launch deal after the Canadian-owned Telstar 12 Vantage satellite lifted off from Tanegashima in November 2015.

Japan has made noises about shifting control of its launch industry from its space agency JAXA to the private sector. This new contract between Mitsubishi and Inmarsat suggests that they are following through with that shift. However, though no specific price was mentioned in the article, the quote below indicates that Mitsubishi will have a big hill to climb to become competitive.

“The reason why we got the launch order from Inmarsat, I think, was not, of course, the cost-competitiveness of the H-2A launch vehicle, but I think our launch record is very good — 35 consecutive successes, high reliability — and another is on-time launch,” [Ko Ogasawara, Mitsubishi vice president] said in remarks last week at Euroconsult’s World Satellite Business Week conference in Paris. “We keep our schedule, and I think they put a high value on that.”

Mitsubishi’s next generation rocket, the H3, is being targeted for a launch price of $50 million, half of what the H-2A charges and more competitive in today’s market.

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Japan’s beginning shift to commercial space

Link here. The article provides a good sense of the state of Japan’s private space industry, which at this moment is generally restricted one company, Interstellar Technologies, and its as yet unsuccessful effort to launch a suborbital rocket. The following quote however helps explain why Japan has been unable to interest anyone in buying its H-2A rocket for commercial launches.

Launch costs associated with Japan’s main H-2A rocket are about ¥10 billion per launch (about $90 million), so miniature satellites often ride together with bigger satellites. A period of 50 days is required between launches, meaning the number of launches is low in Japan compared to countries including the United States, Europe, Russia, China and India. Large satellites are given priority in the launch schedule, so it is often difficult to choose a launch window for miniature satellites. [emphasis mine]

I think the $90 million price is a significant reduction from what JAXA used to charge. Fifty days to prep for launch however is ungodly slow.

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Japanese launch scrubbed due to problem with rocket

Japan’s space agency JAXA scrubbed a Saturday launch of a GPS satellite because of a possible leak in the H2-A rocket’s helium pressurization system.

The Japanese have not released much information. However, the problem might be more serious than normal, because the rocket was still on the launchpad on Sunday, almost a day after the launch itself was scrubbed. Normally when a launch is scrubbed they move quickly to safe the rocket and get it back into the assembly building to assess the issue. That the rocket was not moved suggests they might be having a problem doing this.

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Arianespace and the Russian-owned Sea Launch are seeking to get the restrictions against them removed so that they can sell their services to more customers.

The competition heats up: Arianespace and the Russian-owned Sea Launch are seeking to get the restrictions against them removed so that they can sell their services to more customers.

Arianespace wants to sell its launch services to the U.S. government, something it is not allowed to do right now because of U.S. restrictions. These are the same kinds of restrictions that has prevented SpaceX from launching military satellites and which that company is now contesting.

Russia meanwhile wants to use Sea Launch for its own payloads, but because Sea Launch’s platform is based in California, the Russian government won’t allow their payloads on it because of security reasons. They want the platform moved to Russia so that they can use their own company to launch their own satellites.

The article also describes how Japan is trying to reduce the cost of its H-2A rocket by 50% so that it can become more competitive.

All in all, I would say that the arrival of SpaceX has done exactly what was predicted, shaken the industry out of its doldrums. How else to explain this sudden interest in open competition and lowering costs? These companies could have done this decades ago. They did not. Suddenly a new player arrives on the scene, offering to beat them at their own game. It is not surprising that they are fighting back.

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A cheaper Japanese launch vehicle is scheduled to launch next month.

A cheaper Japanese launch vehicle is scheduled to launch next month.

The story is actually not very informative. What is interesting is the spin of the article: Japan’s rockets are getting cheaper! This suggests to me that the pressure brought to bear by SpaceX’s lower prices is being felt quite strongly.

We really don’t know if this Japanese rocket is cheaper to launch. What we do know is that, for the first time in decades, Japan feels compelled to use that sales pitch to sell its rockets. Isn’t competition great?

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