According to unnamed sources in Japan’s space agency JAXA, the first launch of its new H3 rocket, presently scheduled for the end of March ’22, will be delayed by as much as a year because of “defects” in the rocket’s engine.
…the discovery of defects forced the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) to delay it a second time as it remains unclear by when the vehicle’s engine can be redesigned and produced, the sources said Monday.
Some people in the government expressed concerns over the postponement being potentially prolonged, the sources said.
…In May 2020, a test conducted on the H3 rocket’s main engine found holes on the wall of a combustion chamber and a crack on a turbine that feeds fuel to the chamber, prompting the agency to announce the first delay.
Since then, JAXA has reviewed its design and has been reassembling the rocket at Tanegashima Space Center in Kagoshima Prefecture, from where the rocket is planned to lift off.
None of this has as yet been officially announced. If true, this is a serious blow to Japan’s space effort, which has not been very competitive anyway in the global launch industry. The older H2 rocket in use now is very expensive, so that it has garnered few customers outside of the Japanese government. The new H3 was supposed cost less, but it is entirely expendable, so it can’t compete with the reusable rockets of SpaceX, Blue Origin, or Rocket Lab.
It is also apparently being designed and controlled by JAXA, not Mitsubishi, the prime contractor. Government-run programs nowadays routinely experience endless delays and cost overruns, and the H3 project appears to be more of the same.
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