Japan's space agency to try again with minirocket launch in 2017
JAXA pushes public-private effort, undaunted by January failure
TOKYO -- Rallying from a failed launch in mid-January, the Japanese space agency will revise its planned low-cost satellite launch vehicle and mount a second attempt as early as this year.
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency built the minirocket with help from the private sector, including Canon Electronics and IHI subsidiary IHI Aerospace. The relaunch would mark a major push by the agency to help civilian companies entering the space business.
Participating businesses will likely bear the brunt of the 300 million yen to 500 million yen ($2.64 million to $4.4 million) launch cost, though the government will likely allocate funds as well. JAXA aims to have the rocket finished by autumn. It will soon plan out how to procure needed parts and build the vehicle in time for a 2017 launch, then submit the plan to the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology. The ministry will secure a launch site accordingly, and a safety and inspections committee of its space division will review the plan.
January's rocket was a three-stage version of the existing two-stage SS-520, modified to carry a miniature satellite. Off-the-shelf consumer product technology was incorporated to keep costs down. The rocket blasted off successfully. But during the first stage of the launch sequence, transmission of such critical data as its temperature and position ceased. The agency aborted the second stage, letting the vehicle fall into the ocean.
After the failed launch, JAXA scrutinized data from minirocket's communications equipment and other components, and conducted new vibration tests. It eliminated parts that could have been responsible for the failure and put in place measures to prevent a recurrence of the problems. It will report in detail on the findings of its inspections at a section meeting of the technology ministry starting Monday.
Canon Electronics provided flight control mechanisms for the low-cost rocket. The company plans to continue on in the space business, including with a minisatellite launch in India this March.
The relaunch would offer a chance to promptly inspect on the spot the performance of consumer electronics devices used in the rocket.