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H3 failure delays Japan’s entire space program

According to one official of Japan’s space agency JAXA, the failure of the first launch of its new H3 rocket in early March now threatens the schedule of much of Japan’s entire space program, even those missions being launched on the older H2A rocket.

The investigation into the launch failure, when the upper stage of the H3 rocket failed to ignite, remains unfinished with no word when it will be completed.

The H3 upper stage uses an engine designated LE-5B-3 developed by MHI [Mitsubishi Heavy Industries] and similar to the LE-5B engine used on the existing H-2A rocket. That is putting launches of the H-2A on hold while the investigation continues.

That may delay the upcoming launch of two science missions sharing an H-2A. The X-Ray Imaging and Spectroscopy Mission (XRISM), an X-ray astronomy spacecraft, and the Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM), a lunar lander, were scheduled to launch together as soon as May on an H-2A.

The article notes that XRISM replaces a 2016 Japanese X-ray telescope that failed immediately after launch. That failure then was bad, but just as bad is the seven years it has taken JAXA to have a replacement ready.

The H3 failure also threatens a JAXA Mars mission scheduled for launch in 2024, during the next launch window to Mars.

Japan’s space program more and more resembles Russia’s. It is controlled entirely by the government, which it appears does not allow competition within Japan, as all major rocket work is apparently confined to Mitsubishi. There have been unending quality control problems, within many probes as well as in the development of both the H3 and the Epsilon rockets. And the pace of operations is slow, much slower than other nations or companies.

It seems a major reform is needed, and it should start with Japanese government officials reading Capitalism in Space. They need to open up competition and release their space program from the control of JAXA, especially because JAXA is not doing a very good job. Like NASA, it would be better if JAXA stopped being a designer and builder, and become merely a customer obtaining products from many different competing private companies.

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On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

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  • Dick Eagleson

    One suspects the Japanese government’s attention, these days, is concentrated on the PRC more than on its relatively insignificant domestic space industry. To the extent any industry gets its attention, it would far more likely be its automotive industry, most of which is about to be killed off in its #1 market, the PRC, owing to recent regulatory changes and competition from Tesla and domestic Chinese automakers. Japanese automaker managements, though, may prove even more problematic than PRC regulators, notably Toyota’s new CEO’s recent re-affirmation of that company’s intent to concentrate resources on hydrogen-fueled autos rather than battery-electrics.

  • Max

    Wow… hydrogen?
    I thought that technology was given up back when George Bush Junior announced a transition to a hydrogen economy in the early 2000s. The infrastructure was nonexistent and problematic, prototypes didn’t last long. Hydrogen membranes that provided the electricity cost $1 million Per unit and were destroyed if allowed to freeze.

    Combining hydrogen in tanks of metal (titanium pellets?) as a hydrides, Is very heavy and would need to consume 20% of its energy to heat the tanks to release the hydrogen. Hard to recharge, mileage limited.

    Compressing hydrogen results in more volume but unfortunately hydrogen molecule is so small that 10% of its volume passes through the wall of the tank every day… (that’s why hydrogen storage tanks are double lined to capture what leaks and compressed back into the tank which consumes energy equivalent of the 10% leak)

    There are no natural sources of hydrogen! It takes twice as much energy to make hydrogen from water then the energy you get from using/consuming it. Although technology is constantly changing, hydrogen embrittlement still occurs which limits the life of hoses, tanks, motor parts.

    Cryogenic hydrogen will have less losses, but quadruples the cost of maintaining the fuel. It is not portable because freezing equipment would consume the hydrogen fuel at the same rate as the vehicle carrying all the equipment. (rockets makes sense because they consume hydrogen fuel extremely quickly)

    The only hydrogen fuel that is pragmatic, easy to replenish and store, plentiful and economic… Is hydrogen combined with a carbon atom… The molecular structure comes in a variety of sizes that fits different applications dependent upon your needs. Methane, butane, propane, hexane, octane, dectane, diesel fuel, all the way up to heavy crude and tar.
    Commonly called hydrocarbons.

    A kissing cousin is carbohydrates which the entire world and our ecosystem is dependent upon.
    When the fascist/Marxist eliminate all carbon, it will eliminate everything! perhaps life itself. They claim they can achieve this goal, even though 10% of the crust of the planet is made from carbon… madness! A death cult.

  • Max

    As for the failure of the Japanese space industry, there are wealthy Japanese individuals and companies that can embarrass their space agency by buying a trip to the moon, (or around the moon) and to place a similar x-ray telescope satellite in orbit at a 10th of the cost from SpaceX…
    When accomplishments become more desired than a “political work program” to provide jobs… only then will you see a change in traditions for a desired outcome readily available at a reasonable cost.

  • Max

    By accident I came across this today, a deep dive into the problem of hydrogen. Lots of good points and documentation showing how green or blue hydrogen produces as much CO2 as burning methane directly.
    Hydrogen from solar or wind is the most expensive!

    A liter of hydrogen versus a liter of gasoline? She says gasoline has six times the energy!
    Information worthwhile to absorb if you were thinking that hydrogen was a good idea.

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