THE PLANNED uprated Japanese H2A launcher is in demand from Hughes, which has booked ten flights between 2000 and 2004. Each launch will cost $77 million, about $90 million less than the commercial rate for a standard H2 launch. The H2, marketed by Rocket Systems, has been uncompetitive because excessive development costs have led to high charges.

Cost reductions will be achieved with three planned H2 upgrades, starting with the H2A1. This will have smaller, lighter and more efficient solid-rocket boosters, which will replicate the 2,000kg-to-geostationary-orbit (GEO) performance of the current model. Later, more ambitious, upgrades will be made to the H2A2, adding a new piggyback liquid-propellant stage attached to the first stage, which will carry 3,000kg to GEO. The H2A3 will be given two piggyback stages, increasing its GEO performance to 4,000kg.

In the meantime, the fourth standard H2 booster is scheduled to carry the 3,600kg Advanced Earth Observing Satellite (Adeos) into 800km Sun-synchronous orbit on 17 August. The H2 will be equipped with two small solid-rocket boosters, in addition to the regular, larger, pair, to increase thrust slightly. These were first flown on the third H2 in 1995.

Source: Flight International