A government commission on Wednesday approved a plan to launch in fiscal 2002 a substitute for a multipurpose satellite destroyed in November’s failed launch of an H-II rocket.

The Space Activities Commission of the Prime Minister’s Office approved the launch of the substitute Multifunctional Transport Satellite (MTSAT) sometime between April 2002 and March the following year, commission members said.

The Transport Ministry is expected to decide this summer whether the satellite will be carried into orbit by the H-IIA rocket the National Space Development Agency of Japan is currently developing.

The MTSAT was intended to replace the Himawari weather satellite — the five-year durability limit of which expired in March — and also to be used for flight control.

In November, the main engine of the H-II rocket failed some four minutes after takeoff from Tanegashima Space Center in Kagoshima Prefecture, causing the destruction of the 10 billion yen MTSAT it was carrying.

The substitute satellite is being manufactured by a U.S. satellite maker.

It is under a 16 billion yen contract the Japanese government signed in March.

Additional satellites are scheduled to be launched, as initially planned, in fiscal 2004, commission members said.

Regarding the development of the H-IIA rocket, the commission decided to have its technological evaluation section conduct an initial evaluation of the project.