Japan has cancelled the HOPE unmanned spaceplane project as a result of budget cuts. The HOPE was to have been launched on an H2A rocket to provide logistics support for the Japanese element of the International Space Station. There were hopes of following it up eventually with a manned version.

The country's Science and Technology Agency has concluded that the HOPE should be replaced by a re-usable, unmanned single-stage-to-orbit spaceplane. Each launch would cost an estimated $8 million, one-tenth of the cost of a HOPE launch. There are no plans to build a manned shuttle vehicle, says the Agency. Nonetheless, the small Hope X prototype vehicle under development may still fly in 2001 a technology-demonstration mission aboard the new, uprated H2A booster, as planned.

The calls for budget restraint will affect a series of National Space Development Agency and Institute of Space and Astronautics Sciences missions.

The launch of Japan's Comets communications-technology satellite aboard the fifth H2 booster on 18 August has been delayed to ensure that the spacecraft does not experience the same kind of solar-panel problem thought to have caused the in-orbit failure of the Adeos satellite on 30 June.

Source: Flight International