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Japan To Cancel Key Rocket Program

December 9, 1999

TOKYO (AP) _ Japan announced Thursday that it will halt development of the troubled H-2 rocket _ considered the key to Japan’s space program _ after two failed launches this year.

Japanese media prominently reported the decision of the Science and Technology Agency, with the nationally circulated Sankei newspaper calling it a huge setback to Japan’s space program, which is competing with Europe and the United States for a share of the commercial satellite-launching market.

Japan is aiming to become a world leader in aerospace technology, but has been plagued over the past few years by bureaucratic wrangling, cost overruns and technical difficulties _ including with the H-2.

The agency has decided that the National Space Development Agency of Japan, or NASDA, should concentrate instead on developing the next generation of rockets _ called the H-2A _ in the wake of the November failure of an H-2 to put a satellite into orbit, science agency spokesman Toru Nakahara said Thursday.

Another H-2 rocket failed to get its payload into orbit last February, although there had been five successful launches before that.

Last month the domestically made H-2 was deliberately exploded after engine trouble developed and NASDA officials feared the rocket might veer out of control.

The space agency had almost completed construction of the last H-2 rocket, at a cost of about $155 million, Nakahara said.

The science agency, however, has decided to focus on developing the H-2A because of the prohibitive expense of fixing the defects in the last H-2, he said. Though the H-2 and H-2A engines are similar, the H-2A costs less to manufacture.

The initial launch of the H-2A, originally planned for February 2000, has been postponed to around February 2001.

In the new plan, a satellite which was supposed to be sent into orbit by an H-2 rocket next year will be carried into space by an H-2A in fiscal 2002.

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