新型ロケット 国際価格競争に勝てる開発を

The Yomiuri Shimbun May 27, 2013
New rocket must be developed to win competition in intl launch market
新型ロケット 国際価格競争に勝てる開発を(5月26日付・読売社説)

This country must not fall behind other nations in the development of new rockets, which has been progressing worldwide.

An expert panel of the Cabinet Office’s Office of National Space Policy, the body tasked with setting the nation’s space development policies, has worked out a plan that calls for the development of a large next-generation rocket to get into full swing in fiscal 2014.

The goal is to develop an easy-to-use domestically produced rocket that can be launched at a low cost.

The current domestically made large rocket, the H-2A, costs about 10 billion yen to launch. This is 20 to 30 percent higher than launch costs for large rockets overseas.

Lagging behind rivals

The result is that Japan has been performing poorly in the international competition for commercial contracts to launch private-sector satellites for such purposes as telecommunications and broadcasting.

Costs to launch satellites, including intelligence-gathering satellites that only Japan can launch because of national security concerns, are inevitably higher than in other countries with rocket-launching capabilities.

Development of a low-cost rocket should be considered an urgent task to help reinvigorate the nation’s space development industries and mitigate the government’s fiscal burden for space programs.

The United States, Europe, Russia and China have already begun developing next-generation rockets. This comes at a time when demand for launching satellites has been expanding in recent years in emerging economies in Asia, Africa and elsewhere.

The H-2A rocket is among the world’s best in terms of performance and boasts a 95.5 percent launch success rate.

The challenge facing Japan’s rocket development program is to cut launch costs while keeping the H-2A’s high performance.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. have jointly produced a blueprint for the development of a new rocket. The plan reportedly aims to cut current launch costs by half, to about 5 billion yen per launch.

JAXA and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries are working to develop a completely new engine, the most fundamental element of rocket design. To lower launch costs, the plan reportedly calls for studying the advisability of joint manufacture of engines with U.S. companies and others.

Under the space policy council’s plan, the first launch of the envisioned new rocket will take place in 2020, the year the other rocket-manufacturing countries have set to start launching their new rockets. Specifics of the nation’s rocket development program should be crystallized as promptly as possible.

The space policy expert panel has said the new rocket development project should be undertaken mainly by the private sector, and the involvement of JAXA should be minimized. This could considerably reduce the project’s costs in the aggregate, currently an estimated 190 billion yen, according to the panel.

Make best use of JAXA

Given the stringency of government finances, curbing rocket development expenses is vital.

However, rocket development always faces potential unforeseeable obstacles: If the private sector takes the lead in rocket development, it may be unable to solve such problems as unexpectedly high development expenses and harder-than-expected technical challenges.

JAXA has so far played the leading role in the nation’s space development programs, including its first satellite launch in 1970.

In the wake of the November 1999 failure to launch an H-2 rocket, the predecessor of the H-2A, JAXA effectively identified the causes of the failure and improved the rocket’s design, successfully upgrading its performance.

In light of this, a system should be created to address the development of the new rocket by suitably combining private- and public-sector strengths to exploit JAXA’s accumulated technology.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 26, 2013)
(2013年5月26日01時38分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2013-05-29 07:05 | 英字新聞

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