JAXA scrubs Michibiki 3 launch due to problem with propulsion

H-IIA. Image courtesy of JAXA.

Japan’s space agency, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), has scrubbed the launch of its Michibiki 3 satellite.

Originally planned for August 11, the launch was postponed to August 12 at approximately 2p.m. Japan Standard Time (JST). It was later postponed again to 4p.m., and then scrubbed an hour before the launch window opened.

Meant to take place via a Mitsubishi Heavy Industries H-IIA No. 35 rocket, the launch was cancelled due to a problem with the rocket propulsion system. No further details have been released, except that JAXA is currently examining the rocket. JAXA will reschedule the launch for a later date.

This technical difficulty is worrying, given a disturbing trend of launch issues within the Asia-Pacific region, beginning with the failure of Rocket Lab’s Electron to reach orbit on May 25 this year. Following that, Chinese communications satellite Chinasat 9A, launched on June 19, failed to reach the correct orbit. On July 3, China’s largest rocket, the Long March 5-Y2, failed to carry the Shijian-18 into orbit. And just before this launch, on July 31, private Japanese company Interstellar Technologies aborted the launch of its Momo rocket mid-flight. Fortunately, in this case, the problem was detected before the launch.

Hopefully, JAXA will be able to resolve the issue and conduct a successful launch. The H-IIA rocket has failed only once before, during the launch of two IGS satellites in November 2003.

If successful, Michibiki 3 will be the third satellite in Japan’s Quasi-Zenith Satellite System (QZSS), a proposed constellation of seven satellites that will serve as a satellite-based augmentation system. A successful launch will increase the odds that Michibiki 4, scheduled to be launched later this year, will be in orbit in time for QZSS to be operational in 2018, as planned.

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