Japan to abandon troubled H-2 rocket project
December 8, 1999
Web posted at: 11:25 a.m. EST (1625 GMT)
TOKYO (Reuters) — Japan will abandon its flagship H-2 rocket project, the latest casualty at its troubled space program, following a failed launch last month, the National Space Development Agency of Japan (NASDA) said on Wednesday.
A NASDA spokesman said the agency will also move back by one year the target launch of the new H-2A rocket, planned as a less expensive successor to the H-2.
The H-2A's maiden voyage had originally been set for early 2000, but repeated failures in the H-2 project, which still had one more launch to go before its scheduled completion, prompted officials to delay the program while they look for glitches in the rocket's technology.
Although 16 billion yen ($155.8 million) has already been budgeted for the last H-2 and work on the rocket is 80 percent complete, the spokesman said NASDA decided to abandon it altogether rather than risking further expense and embarrassment.
The aborted launch of an H-2 in November marked the rocket's second failure in nearly two years. In February 1998, an H-2 failed to properly launch a satellite, costing an estimated 60 billion yen ($584.3 million).
The government is expected to formally approve NASDA's decision next week, the spokesman said.
Japan's space program has often been criticized for its high costs and frequent mishaps, attributed in part to the division of responsibility for the program among no fewer than five government ministries.
Each H-2 rocket launch to place a satellite into geostationary orbit costs close to 19 billion yen ($185 million), about double the cost of competitors such as the European Space Agency's Ariane rocket.
Japan announced in August that it was axing the smaller of its two domestic rockets, the J-1, in a cost-cutting move.
Copyright 1999 Reuters
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