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From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.

 
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Problems discovered in new Japanese H3 rocket engine

Engineers at Mitsubishi have discovered technical problems in the engine for Japan’s new H3 rocket, forcing its first test launch to be delayed into 2021.

The Japanese space agency JAXA told SpaceNews that problems were found with the new LE-9 engine’s combustion chamber and turbopump. “Fatigue fracture surfaces were confirmed in the apertural area of the combustion chamber inner wall and the FTP blade of the turbo pump,” according to a JAXA spokesperson.

JAXA and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI), the prime contractor for the H3, were aiming to hold the inaugural launch by the end of 2020 before the discovery of issues in May. However engineers testing the LE-9 cryogenic liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen engine for the H3 first stage encountered a potential issue back in May. This led JAXA to announce in September that the first flight would slip to some time in Japanese fiscal year 2021, beginning April 1, 2021. The rocket’s second launch likewise slipped to Japanese fiscal year 2022.

The H3 is intended as a cheaper and more competitive version of Mitsubishi’s H2 rocket, which has failed to garner much business outside of Japanese government launches because of its cost. That the H3 isn’t being built to be reusable however means it will likely not achieve that goal, as it will not be able to lower it enough to compete with SpaceX.

This launch delay further weakens its ability to compete, as it gives more time for other cheaper alternatives to hit the market.

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One comment

  • Dick Eagleson

    Given that turbopumps and combustion chambers are the most highly-stressed components of rocket engines, it is hardly surprising that they account for an outsized fraction of the total problems arising in development of new engines. Turbopump and combustion chamber problems were apparently at the root of early Long March 5 failures in China. The same has apparently been true of Blue Orgin’s BE-4 engine. Now such problems are biting the Japanese.

    Even the most successful and fastest-moving rocket company on Earth, SpaceX, has suffered similar difficulties in the process of developing and improving its Merlin and Raptor powerplants. Turbopump fatigue cracking, in particular, was an issue with later versions of the Merlin 1-D as its power was increased. Early versions of Raptor also suffered such problems. Given both the extraordinary performance and modest size of both engines, it would have been very odd for such not to have been the case. In both the Merlin and Raptor cases, “the fitful demons chained within their engines,” as Robert Heinlein once put it, have been incrementally tamed by increasing sophistication and subtlety in design, metallurgy and control systems.

    As with SpaceX, Blue Origin and the Chinese, the Japanese will find solutions for their current problems too.

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