• Science

Japan’s Aerospace Agency Set for Successful Launch of H3 Rocket

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Masashi Okada, a project manager at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, speaks during an interview in Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture.

A project manager at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) said the agency is determined to make a successful second launch of the nation’s new mainstay H3 rocket on Thursday, learning lessons from the failure of the first H3 launch in March last year.

The H3, a successor to the current flagship H2A rocket, is a 57-meter-long, large liquid-fuel rocket. However, engine development for the rocket, among other things, involved many difficulties.

In March, the H3’s first launch vehicle had to be destroyed along with the onboard satellite on command from the ground, about 14 minutes after the launch, after its second-stage engine failed to ignite.

It took about seven months to determine the cause of the failure. “It was a long battle without a way out,” said Masashi Okada, 61, a project manager at JAXA.

Okada and his team confirmed that an overcurrent had occurred in the electrical system controlling the engines but had difficulties in determining the cause of the problem. They cast a wide net over all possible causes and steadily verified possible measures against each of them based on flight data acquired before the destruction of the rocket.

“We cast a net again and again because of the fear of what would happen if there were ‘fish’ outside the net,” Okada said. Believing that the only thing that can overcome the fear was facts, they continued the verification process until they became convinced as engineers.

They finally identified multiple scenarios, including the possibility of a short circuit in the ignition system, and took countermeasures.

This is the first new development of a large rocket in about 30 years since the first fully domestically produced rocket, H2.

Okada is set for the successful second launch of H3, believing, “The baton was passed for future rocket developments.”