Tuesday, August 6, 2013

No. 754: Successful launch of the H2B rocket (August 6, 2013)

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries successfully launched Japan’s domestic large rocket H2B-4 on August 4. The unmanned transporter HTV-4 (called Stork by pet name) loaded on this rocket entered the planned orbit and will get to the International Space Station (ISS) around August 9. 

Successful launch of the H2B-4

The Stork transports foods and daily necessities for astronauts, and Kirobo that is the humanoid robot jointly developed by Toyota Motor and the University of Tokyo. The Kirobo will assist Koichi Wakata scheduled to stay in the ISS for half a year starting this November as the first Japanese captain. 

 The humanoid robot "Kirobo"

Young ladies and gentlemen play with a Kirobo

Japan succeeded in launching the H2B rocket for four consecutive times since 2009, and the success rate of the launch of major rockets is now 96.2% (25 successes out of 26 launches). JapanAerospace Exploration Agency entrusted Mitsubishi Heavy Industries with the launch of H2B for the first time in the launch of H2B-4. This allowed the company to take orders for rocket launch from abroad. In the world, 25 rockets were launched in 2012. Europe launched 56 rockets, Russia 24, Alliance between the U.S. and Ukraine 12, and China 8. Although Japan launched only 26 rockets to date, it surpasses Ariane of Europe and Proton of Russia in the success rate. The greatest problem that the company has to solve is the launch cost. It cost about 15 billion yen to launch the H2B-4 rocket, twice as much as the world standard. 

The Japanese government will start to develop a new rocket in 2014 with a view to reducing the launch cost to half. Tentatively named H3, the successor is scheduled to be put into practical use in 2020.     

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