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Japan's H2A Has No Commercial Customers

beautiful piece of engineering - just no customers

Tokyo - Apr 30, 2002
Japan finds itself in a pinch over its satellite launching business with the H-2A rocket, which has been developed for Japan's full-fledged entry into the international satellite launching market. It has now become difficult for Japan to carry out a satellite- launching contract with a U.S. satellite manufacturer.

Japan has entered into contracts to launch a total of 20 satellites, but will likely lose all those contracts. Japan's space development with the H-2A, a launching vehicle developed by the National Space Development Agency of Japan (NASDA), will sustain a serious blow.

Rocket System Corp. (RSC) is the only satellite-launching firm in Japan. The company's president, Yoshihisa Tsuda, attended a meeting of the Space Activities Commission (SAC) yesterday to report problems facing Japan in launching commercial satellites.

RSC has now entered into a provisional contract with Space Systems Loral (SS/L), but the RSC president clarified that the contract is highly likely to be cancelled because there is little expectation it will be fulfilled.

The satellite launching market is now oversupplied with rockets and launching prices are substantially down. The contract price of 1996 is now comparatively high. RSC President Tsuda said after the SAC hearing that SS/L is even likely to call off the contract by paying a penalty, if necessary.

RSC has contracted with SS/L for launching 10 satellites with the H-2A. However, NASDA sustained two consecutive failures in launching the H-2 rocket, which is the predecessor of the H-2A. Subsequently, the H-2A development project also went through a substantial delay in its initial schedule.

Therefore, SS/L dissolved its contract on two satellites in December 2000. RSC and SS/L were to negotiate for a formal agreement after seeing successful H-2A launches.

Another U.S. satellite maker, Hughes, also entered into a contract with RSC in 1996 for launching a total of 20 satellites but has cancelled the entire contract.

However, RSC says the contract has yet to be formally cancelled. It will negotiate with SS/L on its satellite launching conditions, including a substantial reduction in the launching price.

At present, RSC is in contract with the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport to launch a multi-functional transport satellite (MTSAT) next year. This is the only formal contract for now.

  • This article is based on a translation of a story that appeared in the Yomiuri Shimbun April 25.

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