H3 rocket test flight 2 liftoff. Credits: makkisse999

H3: first successful launch for the new Japanese rocket

Overview of Japan's H3 Test Flight 2, examining its successful launch, satellite deployment, and future mission prospects

The launch of the H3 Test Flight 2 rocket, was completed on February 17, 2024, at 00:22 UTC (09:22 JST) from the Tanegashima Space Center in Japan.

H3 Rocket's Test Flight 2 Launch. Credits: JAXA
H3 Rocket’s Test Flight 2 Launch. Credits: JAXA

The launch occurred without anomalies. The first stage LE-9 of the H3 rocket ignited its hydrogen and oxygen liquid fuel engines, providing the initial thrust for takeoff. The second stage LE-5B-3, powered by a closed-cycle cryogenic fuel engine, ignited correctly after the separation of the first stage. The solid propellant third stage SRB-3 completed the insertion of the payload into low Earth orbit.

The rocket successfully carried into low Earth orbit the Vehicle Evaluation Payload 4 (VEP 4), a mass simulator, along with two compact Earth observation satellites: CE-SAT-1E, an experimental Earth observation microsatellite built and operated by Canon Electronics, and TIRSAT, a 3U CubeSat developed by Japan Space Systems for testing infrared sensors for Earth observation purposes.


The payload delivery

The second launch of the H3 rocket successfully carried three payloads:

VEP-4, a 2.6-ton mass simulator, is designed to test the rocket’s capability to carry heavy payloads into low Earth orbit. The data gathered during its mission will be crucial for evaluating the H3’s performance and for its future certification for launching commercial satellites.

CE-SAT-1E, a 70 kg optical Earth observation satellite developed by Canon Electronics, will provide high-resolution images for commercial and scientific applications. Its images will be used for a variety of purposes, including agriculture, mapping, and environmental monitoring.

TIRSAT, a 3 kg CubeSat developed by JAXA and the Tokyo Institute of Technology, will test new communication and navigation technologies based on Software Defined Radio (SDR). Its mission will demonstrate the capability of using CubeSats for advanced space missions and will contribute to the development of future satellite communication technologies.

JAXA H3 rocket with payloads VEP 4, CE-SAT-1E, and TIRSAT ready for Test Flight 2 launch. Credits: JAXA
JAXA H3 rocket with payloads VEP 4, CE-SAT-1E, and TIRSAT ready for Test Flight 2 launch. Credits: JAXA


The rocket features

The rocket, a product of collaboration, between JAXA and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) represents an advancement from its predecessors the H-IIA and Epsilon.

It’s improved performance capabilities and adaptability, for space missions set it apart. Notably the H3 features a design with three configurations: H3-22 H3-24 and H3-26, each tailored to handle different payload capacities using solid rocket boosters (SRBs).

Configurations of the H3 rocket. Credits: JAXA
Configurations of the H3 rocket. Credits: JAXA

This flexible design allows for customization to suit mission requirements highlighting the rockets versatility in navigating the challenges of space exploration.

The failure of the inaugural launch

On November 17, 2023, the initial launch of the rocket unfortunately failed. The problem arose during the starting phase of the stage, known as LE 5B 3 seven minutes, after liftoff. Analysis of the data indicated a malfunction in the hydrogen propellant turbopump leading to engine shutdown and a loss of control over the rocket. As a measure of safety, the decision was made to destroy the rocket.

This incident had repercussions. Firstly it caused a delay in the H3 launch program pushing back the launch attempt to February 2024. Moreover, it incurred expenses for JAXA and MHI due to losing the rocket itself and carrying out investigations and necessary adjustments.


Future launches and missions

Looking to the future, the H3 is set to launch a variety of payloads, including satellites for telecommunications, navigation, Earth observation, and lunar space exploration.

The rocket’s modular configuration provides the flexibility to adapt to different missions, making it competitive in the international launch market. JAXA has plans to use the H3 to launch the successor to the Himawari telecommunications satellite and the Martian Moons Exploration (MMX) mission to the moons of Mars.

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Federico Airoldi

Federico Airoldi

Coder, developer and content creator. I am dedicated to spreading my love of space exploration and inspiring others to join me in the pursuit of new frontiers. Page owner of Airo_spaceflight.

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