「H2B」1号機 打ち上げ成功で夢が膨らむ

The Yomiuri Shimbun(Sep. 12, 2009)
Dreams soar with debut of H-2B rocket
「H2B」1号機 打ち上げ成功で夢が膨らむ(9月12日付・読売社説)

The launch of the newly developed H-2B No. 1 rocket went so well that we can now dare to dream that people could one day travel into space aboard the vehicle.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency on Friday successfully launched the domestically developed large rocket. Atop the rocket was an unmanned H-2 Transfer Vehicle (HTV) carrying supplies for the International Space Station; it was put into orbit successfully.

The HTV is expected to arrive at the ISS in a week after having its orbit gradually adjusted by remote operation from Earth. However, it is too soon to celebrate just yet, as many tricky and delicate tasks must be completed before the vehicle successfully docks at the ISS and unloads its cargo.

The H-2B is the largest domestically developed rocket, standing 56 meters tall and weighing 530 tons.

Jointly developed by JAXA and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd., the rocket is powered by two first-stage engines of the preceding H-2A model to provide more thrust than that model.

Tapping existing technology helped keep a lid on the development costs of the H-2B--its 42 billion yen price tag is less than half that of the H-2A. Development went smoothly without major trouble.


Solid track record

Friday's launch marked the nation's 10th straight success for large-size rockets, including H-2A rockets. This achievement proves that accumulating experience is crucial for such missions.

A H-2B rocket will blast off for the ISS once a year as long as the space station remains in operation. H-2A rockets also will be used to launch satellites and space probe vehicles. This will go a long way to helping the nation achieve its long-cherished dream of receiving orders to launch commercial satellites of other nations.

Going through data obtained in the latest launch with a fine-tooth comb will improve the credibility of Japanese rockets in the eyes of overseas observers.

Expectations for Japan's transfer vehicles also are growing.

The HTV--10 meters long and 4.4 meters in diameter--is large enough to hold a bus inside. It weighs 16.5 tons.

The vehicle this time is carrying food and daily necessities for astronauts staying on the ISS as well as laboratory equipment from Japan and the United States.


Ahead of the pack

U.S. space shuttles have played a central role in transporting supplies to the ISS. But the time for shuttles to retire is nearing, due to the huge maintenance costs needed to keep them spaceworthy.

Russia and Europe have developed similar transport vehicles, but Japan's HTV can carry the largest loads. Whether the vehicle could successfully carry its cargo to the ISS therefore had set tongues wagging around the world.

The HTV has been designed to be as safe as a manned spaceship because when it docks with the ISS, astronauts will move in and out of the vehicle. JAXA officials have said they intend to use HTV technology in the development of the nation's first manned spaceship.

The launch of the H-2B rocket has ushered Japan's space technology into a new stage. We hope the new administration led by the Democratic Party of Japan also will help lay the foundation for further space technology development.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 12, 2009)
(2009年9月12日01時20分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2009-09-12 07:04 | 英字新聞

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