Towards the H-3: Update

H-2A successor

Space News kindly published a version of my story on the H-3 last week. I’ve done the usual and pasted a version into this blog.

There is also a story by the ever excellent Warren Ferster on the Epsilon based on a JAXA presser. Please see this blog for more background on the Epsilon, or go to the new, vastly improved Space News website.

We can expect more light to be shone on this during June when the ONSP subcommittee makes its final recommendations. Meanwhile the Yomiuri and Asahi have some more information and perspective on the issue.

Our view in In Defense of Japan is that the H-series is a technology development program and while it may arouse screams of indignation and anger to say it, to put it bluntly, money will always be found to develop technologies that give Japan options. As, fundamentally, Saadia and I argue that Japan’s space program has always been basically, when you remove all the dressing, a dual-use strategic technology development program, then reasons to develop the H-3 will always be found.

As made plain by Dick Samuels and Mike Green, under nationalists such as Tomifumi Godai and in an era of rampant technonationalism and kokusanka, there were compelling reasons to develop the H-2. Japan wanted and needed to build a sophisticated, liquid fueled, highly efficient two-stage medium launch vehicle to cement its international reputation as part of the advanced spacefaring club. Remember, when the H-2 was envisaged over 20 years ago, few saw the impending “lost decade.”

Japan’s space program under NASDA was relatively awash with money, with investments made or planned  into all sorts of challenging dual-use precursor technologies including ETS-7 (on orbit ASAT demonstration) OICETS/ Kirari (laser communications), reconnaissance/ spy  satellites ICBM prototypes (M-V, J-1), reentry (OREX, USERS SEM) SIGINT (ETS-8), global strike (HYFLEX, HOPE) etc. Some highly ambitious programs that emerged last decade, have disappeared, for example HiMEOS and Smartsat-1.

On the other hand, ALSET looks as if it could make it.

これまでの基幹ロケットの評価と今後の在り方について 2013 年 4 月 24 日 宇宙輸送システム部会 委員 三菱重工業株式会社 代表取締役常務執行役員 航空宇宙事業本部長 鯨井 洋

これまでの基幹ロケットの評価と今後の在り方について
2013 年 4 月 24 日
宇宙輸送システム部会 委員
三菱重工業株式会社 代表取締役常務執行役員
航空宇宙事業本部長
鯨井 洋

Let’s not forget the H-2 very nearly made it to commercial viability but was fatally holed by the surging yen as well as dodgy turbopumps. So then money was found for the H-2A to solve the problem (half the costs, boost the payload) …but as we argue in In Defense of Japan, whether or not the H-2A really made it was not the issue. Could the program be justified in terms of a technology development program to the MoF. The peanuts in terms of cost involved in developing the H-2A compared to the cost of major launch vehicle systems by other advanced democracies (lets just name the Ariane 5) meant yes.

And now the cycle starts again. So how will the H-3 be sold to the MoF under the rubric of Japan’s latest stated space policy?

Sure, as something that will be commercially viable. Whether or not MHI and JAXA can actually achieve this is, we contend, strategically, a mute question. If and when the H-3 doesn’t make it commercially, MHI and Japan will have at least invested in developing a new level of excellent technologies that will secure Japan’s independent launch vehicle capabilities and provide jobs, technology and investment in its aerospace sector. Incidentally, the H-3 is now being sold by MHI as “catchup” again, as the slide above shows.

Sure, the same old cycle of vituperation and lashing will follow in the Japanese media if or when the H-3 fails to make the grade commercially, but the more strategic goals of “keeping/ catching up” will have been met.

Japan OKs H-3

Key Japanese Sub-committee Recommends Development of H-2A replacement

Image

The Space Transportation Systems Subcommittee ( 宇宙政策委員会 宇宙輸送システム部会)  of the Office of National Space Policy (ONSP) May 17 made a provisional recommendation that Japan develop a successor to Japan’s H-2A main launch vehicle.

The Japanese media has been all over this with the Nikkei “breaking” the “story” earlier in the week. Actually as one of its first actions on its establishment and first meeting on March 28,  the committee publicized its schedule and Friday’s sort of pre-decision ( 中間とりまとめの方向の審議) comes before the final decision next month.

Notice of the recommendation will be placed on the ONSP’s website early next week but the ONSP sub-committee had made a recommendation that Japan develop a successor to the H-2A, a liquid propelled two-stage medium launch vehicle that is bought from the Japanese government from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd. (MHI) of  Tokyo.

Here is what the Japanese Media is saying about it. As it’s quasi-governmental, the NHK’s version of reality is probably close to the mark:

開発の方針が決まったH3ロケットは、液体燃料を使ったメーンエンジンに、固体燃料の補助エンジンを組み合わせるなどして飛ばす大型ロケットで、17年前、開発に着手したH2Aの後継機です。現在、およそ100億円かかっている打ち上げ費用を、50億円から65億円程度に大幅に削減する計画で、2020年度に1号機の打ち上げを目指しています。宇宙政策委員会の部会は、このH3の開発を今月中にも正式決定し、来年度予算の概算要求に研究開発費を盛り込む予定です。開発にかかる最終的な金額は、およそ2000億円と見込まれています。

The long and short of it is that development will start from next year for a replacement for the H-2A with a target launch cost ranging from $50-65 million (@100¥ to the dollar) about half today’s H-2A launch cost; first flight in 2020 and total development cost to be held to 200 billion yen.

The Transportation Systems Sub-committee is responsible within the ONSP for Japan’s launch vehicle development policy based on the second 5-year Basic Plan for Space Policy set by ONSP. The Basic Plan, released February 25 this year, which comes into effect this March, emphasizes that that Japan focus its development on developing the solid-fuel Epsilon launch vehicle together with a “cost effective” successor to the H-2A, according to sub-committee documents and the remit provided by the Basic Plan.

In a briefing titled “Evaluation of Present Mainstay Rocket Systems and Future Systems Development Methodology” (PKK translation) submitted April 24 to the sub-committee by MHI Executive Vice President and Head of Aerospace Systems Yoichi Kujirai, MHI has proposed a two-stage “New Concept Rocket” (see picture above) design based on a liquid fueled core stage supplemented by solid rocket booster augments based on the second stage of the Epsilon launch vehicle that would be ready for commercial competition in 2020 at a price tag half the price of the current H-2A, according to the briefing documents.

MHI had formerly proposed an H-X (or H-3), whose first stage was supposed to use an LE-X engine with a high-thrust expander bleed cycle which was originally  for up to three test launches starting 2018. However the design met with considerable doubts in the ONSP about its cost and commercial viability.  It is unclear at time of writing how the “New Concept Rocket” differs from prior H-3/X concepts.

According to its meeting publicly available meeting schedule, the sub-committee is due to make its final decision by the end of June. A development budget, final design parameters and budget will accompany the final decision.

A New Direction For Japan’s Space Program?

Here is the longer version of the previous article:

Aviation Week & Space Technology   May 06, 2013 , p. 36

Paul Kallender-Umezu
Tokyo

Japanese space programs face strict new reality

Et Tu, Tokyo?

The first order of business for new Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) leader Naoki Okumura will be to reorient his nation’s space program from advanced development to activities that may produce some commercial return on investment.

EpsilonBased on the latest five-year “Basic Plan” for space promulgated by the Office of National Space Policy (ONSP), the new direction is putting pressure on JAXA to cut, postpone or reduce to research and development some or most of the agency’s flagship science, technology and manned spaceflight programs.

Some or all of the satellites planned for the Global Earth Observation System of Systems, the HTV-R pressurized sample-and-crew-return mini-shuttle and the H-X/H-3 launcher programs could face cancellation, concedes JAXA’s Hiroshi Sasaki, senior advisor in the strategic planning and management department.

“For 20 years, so much money has been spent by JAXA [and its predecessor, Nasda] on R&D, but there has been very little commercial return,” says Hirotoshi Kunitomo, ONSP director.

Under legislation passed last year, JAXA policy is now controlled by the 23-member ONSP, which was created at the end of a process begun in the middle of the past decade to wrest control of space planning from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), which controlled 60% of Japan’s roughly 350 billion yen ($3.75 billion) annual government space budget through its oversight of JAXA.

With a charter for change, ONSP reports directly to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has final say over which of JAXA’s programs are funded. In turn, ONSP’s Basic Plan resets Japan’s space policy to three mutually reinforcing goals: promoting national security; boosting industry; and securing the country’s technological independence for all major space applications from reliance on foreign agencies—providing this supports the first two goals.

Kunitomo asserts that ONSP will continue to support frontier science as a lower priority, as long as it is based on the sort of low-cost, high-impact space science designed by JAXA’s Institute of Space and Astronautical Science , embodied by the Hayabusa asteroid sample-return mission. But former high-priority goals to promote environmental monitoring and human space activities and put robots on the Moon now have been moved down the list and must fight for funding, Kunitomo says.

Instead, only one of the three ONSP core programs—Japan’s launch vehicles—is run by JAXA.

The top-priority program, run by the ONSP, is to build out the Quasi-Zenith Satellite System (QZSS), Japan’s regional GPS overlay, with a budget approved for maintaining a constellation of four QZSS satellites by around 2018. A post-2020 build-out to a seven-satellite constellation will then give Japan its own independent regional positioning, navigation and timing capability.

The second is the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ (Asean) newly sanctioned disaster management network run by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI). This requires a constellation of Earth-observing satellites equipped with X- and L-band radar and hyperspectral sensors to monitor Southeast Asia. Japan will provide at least the first three satellites, with more funding through foreign aid packages. Vietnam has signed up for two X-band satellites. The system’s once-daily global-revisit policy requires a minimum constellation of four satellites that will need to be replenished every five years or so.

The third priority has JAXA focusing on improving the current H-2A launch vehicle in partnership with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) while continuing improvement of its new low-cost, launch-on-demand Epsilon solid-fuel rocket for smaller payloads. A variant of the Epsilon will be uprated to around 1,800 kg (3,970 lb.) from 1,200 kg to low Earth orbit, matching that of its predecessor M-V launch vehicle.

JAXA projects that fall outside the Basic Plan’s goals but already were funded for development will continue if it would be counter-productive to stop them, says Kunitomo. These include launching the upcoming ALOS-2 land-observing system and the Global Precipitation Measurement/Dual-frequency Precipitation Radar satellites. The Greenhouse Gases-Observing Satellite-2 (Gosat-2) will also continue, as it is funded by the Environment Ministry, not MEXT/JAXA.

But under a Feb. 25 budget plan drawn up by Kunitomo, several programs face close scrutiny, including the HTV-R sample-return mission, any future launches of the HTV-R transfer vehicle beyond the current seven planned to 2016, lunar exploration and all of JAXA’s follow-on environmental missions.

The ONSP’s logic for reauditing the HTV-R is harsh. As it is too expensive to commercialize, the H-2B will be ditched as dead once its HTV duties are finished. The HTV’s only purpose is to service the International Space Station, and Japan must minimize its costs, so logically the HTV, HTV-R and H-2B have no future beyond 2016 and the HTV’s seventh flight. Indeed, one industry official tells Aviation Week that Japan may launch at most two post-2016 missions.

The Basic Plan mandates that the agency’s already-low-priority environmental-monitoring programs undergo a “focus and reselection process.” This means the proposed GCOM-C, EarthCARE cloud radar mission and ALOS-3 electro-optical missions , the second main plank of Japan’s flagship international cooperation programs with NASA and the European Space Agency , will struggle for funding, and not all will make it, says Kunitomo. But a reconfigured ALOS-3 that can adapt to the Asean disaster management network at a fraction of its projected price would be more acceptable, he concedes.

As for the putative H-X, Kunitomo says ONSP questions the need to spend $2 billion and 8-10 years to develop it. JAXA and MHI say the program requires a launch system that no one can guarantee will be commercially competitive.

Industry’s reaction to all of this appears to range from stress to relief to anxiety. Masaru Uji, a general manager at the Society of Japanese Aerospace Companies, says QZSS and Asean network programs will provide steady, long-term business for Japan’s two satellite integrators: Mitsubishi Electric, which is supplying its DS2000 bus for the QZSS; and NEC Corp. , with its METI-funded 300-kg-class multipurpose Asnaro bus for the network.

The aerospace trade association figures show that for 2011, Japan’s total space sales—both overseas and domestic, and including all subcontractor revenues—amounted to only ¥265 billion ($2.7 billion). That is down from a peak of ¥379 billion in 1998, with overseas commercial sales accounting for only the low teens in revenue and JAXA programs taking the lion’s share of domestic business.

The Basic Plan “is moving in the right direction. You can’t build a business without infrastructure,” says Satoshi Tsuzukibashi, director of the Industrial Technology Bureau at Keidanren, Japan’s most powerful business lobby.

Uji is particularly pleased for NEC, which has been awarded a so-called private finance initiative to develop the QZSS ground segment, spreading steady payments to the company for at least the next 15 years. Anticipating the Basic Plan this January, NEC announced a ¥9.9 billion investment in a new 9,000-sq.-meter (97,000-sq.-ft.) satellite facility in Fuchu, west of Tokyo, to build a fleet of Asnaro satellites, which it also hopes to market commercially under the Nextar brand, says Yasuo Horiuchi, senior manager of NEC’s satellite business development office.

Similarly, Mitsubishi Electric said in March that it completed a doubling of its satellite production capacity to eight buses annually at its Kamakura Works. Having already sold four of the 13 DS2000-based satellites to commercial satellite services customers, increased volume spurred by the QZSS program will create further efficiencies and cost competitiveness, says Executive Director Eiichi Hikima.

MHI may face a different challenge, however. Ryo Nakamura, director of H-2A-2B launch services in the company’s Space Systems Div., says an improved H-IIA may gain one commercial contract in 2015-16. This may convince ONSP to fund the H-X (or H-3), whose first stage was supposed to use an LE-X engine with a high-thrust expander bleed cycle. Before the Basic Plan , the rocket was slated in JAXA’s road map to undergo the first of its three test launches around 2018. Hidemasa Nakanishi, manager of strategy and planning at the Space Systems Div., thinks it is Japan ‘s duty as an advanced spacefaring nation to complete its participation in the International Space Station, thus learning pressurized return technologies through the HTV-R .

JAXA’s Sasaki points out that nothing has been cut yet, and JAXA is going to battle to preserve as much of its “traditional” programs as it can in the relevant subcommittees though the spring. Key decisions will come in June.

Japanese Space Program Braces For Cuts

Here is a shorter version of the longer article that was published in Aviation Week last month. It was great to have the chance to write a little bit about what is going on in Japan. I’m posting this now, since Japan is nearing a decision on exactly what sort of H-3 launch vehicle it wants, for example, here, here, here and here, just to name a few. I’ll just post the longer form article and then my take on the H-3.

TOKYO — As Japan’s space policy plans shift away from research and development, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is finding its flagship science, technology and manned spaceflight programs in line for cuts and cancellations.

Some or all of Japan’s satellites planned for the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), the HTV-R pressurized sample-and-crew-return mini-shuttle, and the H-X/H-3 launcher programs could face cancellation, says JAXA’s Hiroshi Sasaki, senior advisor for the strategic planning and management department.

Epsilon rocketNew laws have placed control of the Japanese space agency in the hands of the Office of National Space Policy. And ONSP director Hirotoshi Kunitomo seeks to reorient Japan’s space efforts from idealism to realism.

ONSP will continue to support frontier science as a lower priority, providing it is based on the sort of low-cost, high-impact space science designed by JAXA’s Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS), embodied by the Hayabusa asteroid sample return mission. But former high-priority goals to promote environmental monitoring, human space activities and putting robots on the Moon are now much lower priorities and will have to fight for funding, Kunitomo says.

Instead, ONSP is focusing on three core programs, and only one of them, Japan’s launch vehicles, is a JAXA program.

The highest priority effort, run by the ONSP, is to build out the Quasi-Zenith Satellite System (QZSS), Japan’s regional GPS overlay, with a budget approved for maintaining a constellation of four QZSS satellites by around 2018. A post-2020 build out to a seven-satellite constellation will then give Japan its own independent regional positioning, navigation and timing capability.

The second is the Association of Southeast Asian Nation’s (ASEAN) newly sanctioned Disaster Management Network run by the Ministry of Economy Trade and Industry (METI). This requires a constellation of Earth-observing optical, X- and L-band radar and hyperspectral sensor-equipped satellites monitoring Southeast Asia. Japan will provide at least the first three satellites, with more funding through foreign aid packages. Vietnam has already signed up for two X-band satellites. Stated policy requires a once-daily revisit over any part of the Earth, requiring a minimum constellation of four satellites that will need to be regularly replenished every five years or so.

The third priority focuses is on improving the current H-2A, which JAXA is working on with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI). It is also continuing improvement of JAXA’s new low-cost, launch-on-demand Epsilon solid launch rocket for smaller payloads. A variant will be uprated from 1,200 kg (2,650 lb.) to around 1,800 kg to low Earth orbit, matching that of its predecessor M-V launch vehicle.

JAXA projects that fall short of the Basic Plan’s goals but are already funded for development will continue if it is counterproductive to stop them, Kunitomo says. These include launching the upcoming ALOS-2 land-observing system and the Global Precipitation Measurement/Dual-frequency Precipitation Radar satellites. The greenhouse-gases-focused Observing Satellite-2 (GOSAT-2) is also safe, as it is funded by the Environment Ministry, not JAXA.

But under a Feb. 25 budget plan drawn up by Kunitomo, several programs face harsh scrutiny, including the HTV-R sample return mission, any future launches of the HTV-R transfer vehicle beyond the current seven planned through 2016, the H-3, Moon exploration and all of JAXA’s follow-on environmental missions.

Harsh logic

The ONSP’s logic for re-auditing the HTV-R is harsh. As it is too expensive to commercialize, the H-2B will be ditched as dead once its HTV duties are finished. As the HTV’s only purpose is to service the International Space Station, andImage Japan must minimize its costs, then logically the HTV, HTV-R and H-2B have no future beyond 2016 and the HTV’s seventh flight. Indeed, one industry source tells Aviation Week that Japan may launch perhaps two, at most, post-2016 missions.

For JAXA, things get tougher. ONSP plans mandate that the agency’s now-low priority environmental monitoring programs undergo a “focus and re-selection process.” This means the proposed GCOM-C, EarthCARE cloud radar mission and ALOS-3 electro-optical missions — the second main plank of Japan’s flagship international cooperation programs with NASA and the European Space Agency — will fight for funding, and not all will make it, Kunitomo says. But he concedes a reconfigured ALOS-3 that can adapt to the Disaster Management Network at a fraction of its projected price tag would become more acceptable.

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