JAXA Begins Tests of H-III Engines

H-III launch vehicle variants (Credit: JAXA)

The Nikkei Asian Review reports JAXA began test firings of the LE-9 rocket engine, which will power its new H-III launch vehicle. The first round of testing will include 11 firings through June.

The new booster is set to replace the H-IIA and H-IIB launchers, which are the mainstay of Japan’s orbital rocket fleet. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and IHI are leading the development of the new two-stage launch vehicle.

H-III is designed to launch payloads at lower costs. The basic configuration can carry 4 metric tons into sun synchronous orbit.  By adding two to four strap-on boosters to the first stage, H-III will be able to lift up to 6.5 metric tons into geostationary transfer orbit.

The new booster will have a base cost of about 5 billion yen ($43.9 million). The H-IIA costs an estimated 10 billion yen ($87.8), with the more powerful H-IIB costing 10 billion yen ($131.5 million).

JAXA’s goal is for the H-III to complete flight tests and enter service in March 2021.

  • Let the Lego Rocket Era Begin.

  • 868686

    Cheaper than the Falcon 9?

  • Vladislaw

    Five meter .. beats SpaceX on that …

  • JamesG

    When you don’t have to pay for the development costs (because the Japanese government printed trillions of Yen and handed it out), you can sell rockets cheap.

  • Vladislaw

    Do government space programs ever count the development costs when saying what it costs to launch?

  • JamesG

    I donno. Probably not because… its just the taxpayers money.

  • Paul451

    F9 also uses a 5.2m diameter fairing (4.6m internal diameter) according to the user guide, Sec5.1.2.

    However, JAXA could develop a wider fairing (7-8m) for the H3 without destabilising it, if they had a reason to.

  • I saw a model of the H-3 alongside the H-2A and H-2B at the Mitsubishi Industrial Museum in Yokohama a few weeks ago. Couldn’t help thinking it would be obsolete by the time it’s due to fly in 2021…

  • Arthur Hamilton

    How can it be cheaper than the F9? Is the base cost for the base configuration? F9 gives you 1.7 million pounds of thrust, period. And it(F9 1st stage) can be reused again & again.

  • passinglurker

    probably a combination of government subsidy, economies of scale, manufacturing optimizations, the buzzword of the month, and the fact that it seems to be a lower capacity rocket.

  • Kapitalist

    H-II has only launched Japanese primary payloads. It’s obviously a project for national prestige, security, jobs, corruption. Those accounting figures do not reflect market prices. I’ve heard that the H-II is the most expensive of all launchers today, at the $400 million level of Delta IV Heavy.

  • Geoff T

    There’s also an element that keeping some ongoing capacity for large solid rocket motors allows for ICBMs/SLBMs should they ever seem needed. Japan could easily be a nuclear power were the political will there given they already have the prerequisite elements.

  • Kapitalist

    That (and spy sats and other military space purposes) is for sure the motivation behind so many launchers being developed in different countries. One of the causes of high launch costs and a big opportunity for private launcher developers, because communication satellites is mostly a global market. Who believes that Pakistan, North Korea, Iran or Saudi Arabia will be able to compete internationally in space? Even Japan doesn’t seem to try. Those rocket developments have no ambition to be competitive, their purpose are to be under independent government control, to launch the islamic nuclear bomb on their enemy in a second Jihad world war against the West.

  • JamesG

    Its already obsolete. But it will be cheap.

  • GreenShrike

    Base model is $44M, but only does 4t to sun synchronous. This means it’s quite a bit lighter than an F9, which can do 8.6t to a 500km sun sync orbit and RTLS, or 11.7t with an ASDS barging — both according to NASA’s Launch Services Program vehicle performance site.

    You’d need to know the cost of the H3-24 for a better comparison. If the SRBs are $5M each, then you’re looking at around the same cost as an F9 expendable — but an expendable F9 has a rather higher payload capability than an F9-R.

  • Lee

    Why no version with 3 mains and 4 strapons? Seems logical given the configs they’ve already illustrated…

  • Aerospike

    Possibly structural limits of the rocket. 3 main engines + 4 boosters could be too much to handle.

    I don’t really understand the pictured 2 or 3 engine layout anyway (assuming that is actually what they will build and not just some “artist impression” that does not accurately depict the real thing).
    Because of symmetry you can’t simply leave one engine out, the whole thrust structure has to be unique for each variant. That does not scream “economical” in any way.

  • Larry J

    If Japan wanted to build an ICBM, they’d probably start with something like their Epsilon rocket. All they’d need to finish the ICBM would be a reentry vehicle and warhead. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epsilon_(rocket)

    In terms of technology, Japan could easily develop nuclear weapons. Of course, their unique history makes that unlikely to happen unless they believe North Korea has become a real threat.

  • seem cheap

  • publiusr

    Come on Japan–go Truax and give us Sea Dragon!