Japan hopes to double their capacity to launch orbital missions by 2020 in time for the maiden flight of their next-generation H3 rocket. The country plans to achieve the lofty goal with the construction of a second launch pad at the Tanegashima spaceport.
The single launch pad currently servicing the launch of Japan’s H2A rockets requires approximately two months between missions for refurbishment. The result is that the spaceport currently only has the capacity for a maximum of four launches a year.
In contrast to Japan’s single orbital launch pad, the more established US space programme features eight active launch sites, three at the Kennedy Space Center and five at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The country’s orbital launch capacity is also set to receive a boost next year with the planned completion of the SpaceX South Texas launch site. The net result is that US aerospace titans SpaceX and United Launch Alliance are able to launch more than eight missions each every year.
Once completed, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, the company that manufactures the H2A rocket and is currently developing its replacement the H3 hopes to be able to launch two vehicles within a three-week timeframe. It is hoped that this will allow Japan to boost their annual launch schedule to twelve missions.
Japan’s latest launch successfully deployed the country’s IGS Optical 6 spy satellite into orbit on February 27.
Image Credit: JAXA