Photo/IllutrationAn artist's rendition of an H-3 rocket (Provided by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency)

  • Photo/Illustraion

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) said July 20 it has completed the basic design of Japan’s next-generation rocket, allowing for less-expensive and more frequent launches, as well as heavier payloads.

JAXA plans to have the H-3 launch vehicle ready for takeoff in fiscal 2020 mainly for satellites.

The new rocket will be equipped with simpler systems and use commercially available components that will reduce the cost per launch to around 5 billion yen ($47 million). That is about half the cost to launch the H-2A, JAXA’s current rocket.

JAXA expects to launch six H-3s a year.

“Reducing the number of hours to assemble the rocket and introducing automated inspection systems will allow an H-3 to be launched just a year after an order is placed,” said Masashi Okada, JAXA’s H-3 project team manager.

The H-3’s modular system will allow modifications on the number of solid rocket boosters and motors in the first stage in accordance to the objective or cost of a mission.

The new launch vehicle will also be able to carry heavier payloads than the H-2A.

When launched from the Tanegashima Space Center on Tanegashima island, Kagoshima Prefecture, the H-3 will be able to place a satellite weighing more than 6.5 tons into geostationary orbit, according to JAXA.