Japan announces 2nd postponement of H-3 rocket launch

Courtesy of JAXA
The new H-3 rocket under development is seen in March 2021.

TOKYO (Jiji Press) — The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA, said Friday that it will put off the launch of the first model of the new H-3 rocket under development, after a problem was newly found with its main engine.

JAXA was to launch the rocket by the March 31 end of fiscal 2021. It has yet to decide a new launch date.

“This is the second launch postponement, so we take it very seriously,” JAXA President Horoshi Yamakawa said in a statement. “To ensure a successful launch, we had no choice but to put off any launch in the current fiscal year,” he said.

The first model of the H-3 rocket, being developed by JAXA and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. , was initially to be launched by the end of fiscal 2020.

The debut launch was first postponed by one year after cracks stemming from metal fatigue were found in the turbine blades of the pump that sends fuel to the engine, during a combustion test in May 2020.

The problem that caused the first postponement is set to be fixed, but another issue has occurred, relating to the vibration of the turbine blades, according to JAXA.

Development of the H-3 rocket, which will succeed the existing H-2A rocket, started in fiscal 2014. It will feature two or three newly developed LE-9 first-stage main engines.