Japan plans to resume use of its H-IIA rocket and launch a new weather satellite as early as November to replace an aging satellite, as the investigation into a failed launch last year is almost finished, government sources said Saturday.
The Space Activities Commission is to complete a report Monday on the cause of the failed launch in November of an H-IIA rocket that was going to place into orbit two spy satellites, the sources said.
The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry has told the Japan Meteorological Agency it is aiming for a launch of the new multifunctional transport satellite in November or December, according to the sources.
The satellite will support weather observation and air traffic control over vast areas of Asia and the Pacific, and is expected to begin operations about two months after launch.
Japan has been relying on the U.S. GOES-9 satellite since May to provide visual images for weather forecasts since it shut down the Himawari 5 satellite, which had developed imaging problems as its five-year service life expired. The GOES-9 has also outlived its serviceable life by three years and has no remaining fuel to adjust its orbit.
Government sources said three more test runs on the improved rocket boosters are needed before resuming launches, but preparations can be completed later this year if things go smoothly.
It is possible the first launch of the improved H-IIA rocket will carry an advanced land observing satellite instead, but even in that case, a satellite for weather observation could be launched two to three months later.
Delivery of the multifunctional satellite has been delayed several times by the U.S. company commissioned to build it, but the satellite is expected to be delivered in mid-March to the Tanegashima Space Center in Kagoshima Prefecture, from where it will be launched. The U.S. manufacturer, Space Systems/Loral, ran into financial difficulties and filed in July for protection from creditors.