JAXA to replace expensive M-5 rockets in fiscal 2007

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency will stop producing M-5 solid-fuel rockets and replace them with cheaper ones in the next fiscal year, JAXA officials said Thursday.

JAXA has determined the M-5 capabilities and price tag are excessive. The M-5 can put satellites of up to 1.8 tons into orbit at a height of 250 km and a cost of 7 billion yen per launch. However, most of the satellites Japan plans to launch will only weigh about 500 kg, the officials said.

The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry plans to develop new rockets that have less power and will only cost around 2.5 billion yen per satellite launch, starting in fiscal 2007.

It plans to use the technologies of both the M-5 and HII-A rockets in developing the new rockets, ministry officials said.

The last M-5 rocket will be launched in September to put the Solar B satellite into orbit for observations of the sun. The rocket that will be used to launch the Planet C satellite in 2010 or 2011 for observing Venus will likely be an HII-A.