Japan unveils new space rocket, hoping to boost prestige
Nestled in a cavernous but air-tight hangar, scientists are putting the finishing touches to Japan’s H-2B rocket, hoping it will boost the country’s prestige when it blasts off later this year.
Japan’s space agency and industrial giant Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) last week unveiled the rocket’s body to a group of reporters, but only after submitting them to a rigorous procedure of finger-printing, an air shower to remove all dust and a requirement to wear chemical suits.
“We expect to make a trial launch toward the middle of this year if all the manufacturing and intermediary steps proceed well,” said Tomihisa Nakamura, a researcher who heads the project at Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).
The H-2B — designed to take supplies to the International Space Station (ISS) and launch satellites — is more imposing than its predecessor, the H-2A. When it is ready, the H-2B is expected to be 56 metres (185 feet) tall, three metres more than its sister rocket
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JAXA also has a section of its website devoted to the new rocket and the HTV freighter.