Japan postpones launch of H2-A rocket in setback for space program

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Nov. 29, 2000

Copyright 2000, The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast or re-distributed directly or re-directly. TOKYO (AP) - Japan has postponed the first launch of its newly developed H-2A rocket so it can conduct more tests, a space agency official said today. The announcement is the latest setback for Japan's space program, which has been plagued by technical glitches and financial difficulties. It also makes it more difficult for the agency to reach its goal of launching 12 H-2A rockets in the next four years.

The first launch originally set for February 2001 will be delayed until the summer, said Yasuyuki Fukumuro of the National Space Development Agency of Japan.

The decision came after engineers found cracked pipes and plating that had peeled off the rocket following what was intended to be a final ground test in November, Fukumuro said.

''We can't ignore these small details, so we decided to give the rocket a fundamental review,'' he said.

The government began focusing on the H-2A program after canceling development of the similar but more costly H-2 rocket.

In November of last year, an H-2 rocket was deliberately exploded in the air after engine trouble developed and officials feared the rocket might veer out of control.

Investigators believe the trouble was caused by a glitch related to a pump in the rocket's fuel system. In February 1998, another H-2 failed to get its payload into orbit.

Hughes Space and Communications International told Japan's Rocket System Corp. in May that it wanted to scrap an order for 10 H-2A rockets, each of which costs between $77 million and $82 million.


-- Doris (nocents@bellsouth.net), November 30, 2000

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