Andrzej Jeziorski/PARIS

Rocket System (RSC) of Japan will confirm the performance of the second-stage engine of its modified H-2A launch vehicle in an H-2 flight scheduled for the third quarter of this year.

According to RSC executive vice-president Hiroshi Imamura, the LE-5B engine is being installed into the eighth H-2, which will launch the Japanese Ministry of Transport's MT-SAT later this year. "In this summer's flight, the performance of the second stage engine will be confirmed in advance of the first test flight of H-2A," Imamura said at the First World Summit on the Space Transportation Business in Paris earlier this month.

The complete H-2A vehicle is due to fly for the first time early next year, carrying the European Space Agency's Advanced Relay and Technology Mission satellite.

The H-2A programme was started in 1996 in an effort to cut the price of H-2 launches. The existing H-2 is too expensive to compete in the commercial market, despite efforts by Mitsubishi-led Rocket Systems to market it internationally. The quoted launch price for the original H-2 was about $120 million. This needs to reduce to $80 million at the most to make it competitive. The new version of the launcher has simplified avionics, a new second stage with a separated structure for the liquid-hydrogen and oxygen tanks, and the LE-5B second stage engine. The first stage has also been simplified, making it easier to manufacture, replacing the LE-7 engine with the cut-price LE-7A.

The basic H-2A, with its two solid rocket boosters (SRBs), can carry 4t to geostationary transfer orbit (GTO). Four further derivatives are proposed. The heaviest planned is the H2A212, which offers a 7.5t payload to GTO capability with a single liquid booster and two SRBs. This variant should be available in 2002. RSC is also proposing an H2A222 variant with a second liquid booster.

Source: Flight International