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H2A Facing Extended Delays

going nowhere soon
Tokyo (AFP) Aug 24, 2001
The maiden launch of Japan's troubled H-2A rocket, intended as a commercial satellite launch rival to Europe's Ariane V, was delayed again as a probe into technical problems continued.

Takeoff would now be on August 29 at the earliest and could well be delayed even longer if more unexpected glitches emerge, the National Space Development Agency (NASDA) told a press conference Friday.

"The final launch date will be decided on the 25th or later. It (the launch) wouldn't be the 28th, we think the launch will be the 29th at the earliest," said NASDA spokesman Hideo Hasegawa, who is also the agency's general manager of space station safety and product assurance.

The launch, initially scheduled for August 25, had already been put back to August 28 after NASDA discovered problems with one of the rocket's oxygen valves.

Earlier, the Nihon Keizai Shimbun newspaper said the launch was expected to be delayed until September or even later pending the outcome of an inspection and replacement of parts.

Hasegawa said that although a faulty valve controlling oxygen flow, detected during a routine pre-launch check, had been cited as the reason for calling off Saturday's launch, the investigation was now focusing on the valve's filters as the probable cause.

"We are continuing the investigation of the malfunctioning of the H-2A. We are testing the filters inside a valve," he said.

Particles of the filter itself, which is made of a compound of alumina and silicon, were believed to be breaking off and scratching the rest of the fuel tank system, said Akira Konno, H-2A project sub manager.

"We are seeing silicon powder in the system that is believed to be coming from the filter itself," Konno said.

"We are studying the samples of the powder."

In the meantime, NASDA was replacing the faulty filter with a new one Friday night. The replacement work and entire rocket was due to be inspected again on Saturday, Konno said.

If the inspection finds no more faults, NASDA board members would set the launch for August 29, Konno said.

"Essentially, we are just waiting for the final decision," Konno said.

An expert, however, said the delays could drag on for days or weeks.

"When there is an incident of this type, you have to run mathematical models, and do all sorts of checks," said one European space expert based in Tokyo, who declined to be named.

"You don't just replace a part like that. It takes time, sometimes a matter of weeks, even for a valve," he said.

Japan hopes the improved version of its H-2 rocket will establish its presence in the commercial satellite launch market dominated by the United States and Europe. Japan's space programme though has suffered numerous setbacks.

The launch was postponed for more than a year at the end of 1999 after two consecutive failures with the H-2 in February 1998 and November 1999, which, coming on top of the loss of a satellite, threw the Japanese space industry into turmoil.

"This launch is very important for the Japanese in terms of timing because now is when next year's budget is being drawn up," the expert said.

"That's why they want to carry out the launch as soon as possible and to break the cycle of failures they're trapped in.

"A rocket failure would be a devastating blow for them, calling into question once again the whole programme and the underlying philosophy of the Japanese programme," he said.

The H-2A rocket was due to lift off on Saturday from Tanegashima island, about 1,000 kilometres (620 miles) southwest of Tokyo.

NASDA earlier blamed the massive Typhoon Pabuk, which battered wide areas of Japan earlier this week, for delaying the launch.

Wide disruption to transport services meant the faulty valve could not immediately be returned to the production plant for investigation.

All rights reserved. � 2000 Agence France-Presse. Sections of the information displayed on this page (dispatches, photographs, logos) are protected by intellectual property rights owned by Agence France-Presse. As a consequence, you may not copy, reproduce, modify, transmit, publish, display or in any way commercially exploit any of the content of this section without the prior written consent of Agence France-Presse.

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 Technical Glitches Delay New Japanese Rocket Launch
Tokyo (AFP) August 22, 2001
Japan on Wednesday postponed the launch of its new H-2A rocket, scheduled for this weekend, after discovering problems with a valve in the rocket. Launch will now take place no earlier that August 28, and possibly later NASDA spokeswoman Sawa Komazawa told AFP.

Japan Re-enters Rocket Race With Improved H2A GEO Booster
Tokyo - August 20, 2001
Japan's National Space Development Agency of Japan (NASDA) will this weekend attempt to launch its first improved H2A launch vehicle from its main launch pad located on the southern island of Tanegashima. Launch is currently scheduled for 1pm JST (16:00 GMT) Saturday August 25. The launch window is a generous five hours which gives nervous space officials much needed time to correct any last minute problems.

Japan Abandons European Satellite Launch Deal
Tokyo (AFP)- Sept. 26, 2000
Japan has abandoned its planned launch of a European satellite on its new H2-A rocket because of an engine problem, the latest gremlin to hit its troubled space programme, reports said Tuesday.

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