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Scheduling, costs still a challenge for Japan's H-IIA rockets

JAXA, Mitsubishi Heavy conducts 27th consecutive launch Friday

An H-IIA rocket launches from the Tanegashima Space Center.

TOKYO -- Japan successfully fired the H-IIA rocket for the 27th consecutive time from the Tanegashima Space Center on Friday, but a long wait time between launches and high costs still stand in the way of full-fledged commercialization.

"Short intervals between launches help build confidence," said Naoki Okumura, president of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA. The last H-IIA launch was on Jan. 24. The agency and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries cut the interval by a day from their past record to just 52 days by using a small crane for the previously manual cleanup process, as well as other operational changes.

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