The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency will resume flight tests on a small unmanned plane as early as next month in its quest to develop a next-generation supersonic transport aircraft.

This will be the second test involving a rocket carrying Japan’s next-generation small supersonic airplane.

The first, conducted in July 2002, ended in failure.

In the coming experiment, which will cost about 12.5 billion yen, a rocket will carry the 11.5-meter-long, 4.7-meter-wide plane to an altitude of about 20 km over Woomera in the state of South Australia and accelerate to Mach 2, agency officials said.

The plane’s onboard sensors will gather data on such factors as surface friction and pressure, the officials said. The plane will descend to Earth by parachute.

The first flight test failed over Woomera when the rocket carrying the plane crashed immediately after launch. That plane cost about 1 billion yen to construct.

The failure brought to a standstill Japan’s plans to pursue an experiment that incorporates use of a jet engine and the country’s next-generation supersonic transport project.

If the second test flight succeeds, according to Koji Izumi, flight program director of JAXA, the agency can again propose use of an experimental jet.

In June, Japanese and French aerospace industry groups signed an accord in France to conduct joint research on a next-generation supersonic transport aircraft as a successor to the Concorde passenger jet that went out of service in 2003.

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