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Aerospace & Defense Industries

Japan chases China, U.S. in race for methane-fueled space rocket

JAXA and Mitsubishi Heavy to develop engine for flight planned around 2030

JAXA's H3 rocket failed minutes after liftoff in March, a major setback for Japan's space sector. (Photo by Tomokii Mera)

TOKYO -- The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries plan to develop a methane-fueled engine for a next-generation rocket whose first flight is slated for around 2030.

Methane, the main ingredient in gas distributed to households in Japan, is easier to handle and is less prone to explosions than hydrogen -- qualities that will help lower launch costs. China and the U.S. are ahead in the development race.

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