Final firing test of Japan's H-IIB first stage set for February

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Mitsubishi Heavy Industries expects to conduct the captive firing test of Japan's new  first stage in February next year as the final qualification before its mid-2009 maiden flight that will launch the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's (JAXA) expendable H-II Transfer Vehicle cargo resupply spacecraft.

The H-IIB is a development of the H-IIA where the first stage has been lengthened by 1m (3.05ft) and widened from 4m to 5.2m. It will use two liquid hydrogen/liquid oxygen-fuelled LE-7A engines instead of one and twice as many solid rocket boosters as the H-IIA's two.

The H-IIB has been designed to launch the 16,500kg (36,300lb) H-II Transfer Vehicle that will resupply the International Space Station.

The captive firing test of the first stage follows the completion of eight battleship firing tests that took place at the MHI Tashiro firing test site in northern Japan from March to August. The battleship firing test article and the new first stage were constructed using friction stir welding, a new process for Japan's rockets.

"We will conduct the captive firing test early next year," said MHI's Akihiro Sato, speaking at the International Astronautical Congress in Glasgow in early October.

The captive firing test will be conducted at Yoshinobu launch complex at JAXA's Tanegashima Space Center. The H-IIB will lift off from a new launch site called LP2 that is being built at Tanagashima. The battleship firing test was originally set for 2007 and the captive firing test for this year.

mhi h-iib transfer vehicle jaxa
 © JAXA