H3 rocket’s successful orbit marks redemption for Japan

Japan’s latest flagship rocket, the H3, has successfully reached orbit in a significant milestone, nearly a year after its initial launch attempt ended in failure. Departing from the Tanegashima Space Centre in southwest Japan on Saturday morning, the H3 overcame a two-day delay due to adverse weather conditions.

Ascending to an altitude of approximately 420 miles (670km), the rocket, as confirmed by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), flawlessly deployed two satellites into orbit. This achievement marks redemption for the H3, which encountered a setback during its debut flight in March the previous year when its second-stage engine failed to ignite, leading to the destruction of both the rocket and its payload, the advanced land observation satellite (ALOS-3).

JAXA’s president, Hiroshi Yamakawa, expressed immense relief and satisfaction during a news conference, emphasizing that this success signifies a significant advancement towards the H3’s objectives of ensuring autonomous space access and competing effectively in the global satellite launch market.

The triumph of Saturday’s launch adds to Japan’s recent string of accomplishments in space exploration, including the dispatch of an unmanned spacecraft to the Moon the prior month. The H3 is poised to supersede Japan’s current primary rocket, the H-2A, which will retire after two more missions.

Amidst scenes of jubilation at the JAXA command center captured in livestream footage, project members celebrated the flawless execution of the mission. Project manager Masashi Okada described the outcome as “perfect,” having witnessed the H3 fulfill all its designated tasks. The rocket, adorned with thousands of stickers bearing well-wishes from across the nation, also carried two microsatellites, CE-SAT-IE and TIRSAT, along with a non-releasable mock-up of the ALOS satellite named VEP-4.