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JAXA testing engine for next-generation rocket

Japan's space agency is developing the main engine for its next-generation H-III rocket, which could see service in fiscal 2020. The H-III will be key to Japan expanding its presence in the global satellite launch market, which has been dominated by the U.S., Europe and Russia. This marks the first time in about 20 years that Japan has been developing main rocket engines. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA, began the first round of firing tests for the LE-9 engine on the southern island of Tanegashima in late April. A total of 11 ground tests are scheduled through June to check performance and durability. The LE-9 is a liquid cryogenic rocket engine burning liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen in an expander bleed cycle. After completing another round of firing tests in fiscal 2018 starting next April, developers will construct the actual engine that will be installed in the H-III. The H-III will succeed the country's current H-series rockets, H-IIA and H-IIB. The H-III is designed to use three LE-9 engines when configured without strap-on solid rocket boosters, and two LE-9 engines when configured with them. The rocket is designed to launch with zero, two or four strap-on boosters, allowing it to deliver between two and seven metric tons to geostationary transfer orbit. IHI Aerospace, manufacturer of Japan’s Epsilon small launcher, is MHI’s supplier for the strap-on boosters for the H-2A and future H3. Kawasaki Heavy Industries provides the payload fairings.

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