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Mitsubishi Heavy Industries has won its first commercial order to launch a satellite on an H-IIA rocket, a deal that officials hope will grow into a business that could support Japan’s cash-strapped space program.

The agreement with a South Korean entity to launch sometime after April 2011 comes less than two weeks before the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency plans to put eight satellites into orbit to show that the homegrown H-IIA can compete with rivals in Russia, the United States and Asia’s new space powerhouse, China.

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