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Launch Report: Japan’s New Rocket Fizzles on Pad, Flights to ISS Scheduled

By Doug Messier
Parabolic Arc
February 20, 2023
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Launch Report: Japan’s New Rocket Fizzles on Pad, Flights to ISS Scheduled
The four crew members that comprise the SpaceX Crew-6 mission pose for a photo during a training session on the crew access arm at the Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Pad 39A in Florida. From left are, Mission Specialist Andrey Fedyaev, Pilot Warren “Woody” Hoburg, Mission Specialist Sultan Alneyadi, and Commander Stephen Bowen. (Credit: SpaceX)

Japan’s new rocket fizzled on the pad last week as the United States and Russia prepared for key launches this week to the International Space Station (ISS).

The H3 rocket shut down after its main engine began to fire on Friday, Feb. 17. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) said “an anomaly was found in the first stage system and ignition signals” were not sent to two solid rocket boosters attached to the booster.

Engineers are evaluating the cause of the abort. The rocket is set to launch the carrying the Advanced Land Observing Satellite-3 (ALOS-3) satellite.

H3 rocket configurations (Credit: JAXA)
H3 launch vehicle configurations (Credit: JAXA)

H3 is designed to replace the H-IIA and already retired H-IIB boosters. The launch vehicle has a capacity of placing 4,000 kg (8,818 lb) into sun synchronous orbit (SSO) or 4,000–7,900 kg (8,818–17,417 lb) into geostationary transfer orbit.

Week in Launches
Feb. 13-19

DateLauncher – OrganizationPayload – OrganizationPurposeLaunch Site
Feb. 15Falcon 9 – SpaceX51 Starlink – SpaceXCommunicationsVandenberg
Feb. 18Falcon 9 – SpaceXInmarsat-6 F2 – InmarsatCommunicationsFlorida

SpaceX launched twice last week, raising the company’s total to 12 for the year. Elon Musk’s company has has orbited 315 Starlink satellites on six Falcon 9 flights this year, and 3,981 Starlink spacecraft since Feb. 22, 2018.

Space Station Launches Ahead

Russia will launch the Soyuz MS-23 spacecraft without anyone aboard on Feb. 24 to replace the damaged Soyuz MS-22 vehicle currently docked at ISS. Soyuz-22 suffered a leak in its coolant system in mid-December that Russian officials said was due to a micrometeoroid strike.

NASA astronaut Frank Rubio (left), Roscosmos cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev (center) and Roscosmos cosmonaut Dmitri Petelin (right) complete training preparations in front of their Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft as they prepare for launch Sept. 21 for a six-month mission on the International Space Station. The Soyuz spacecraft bears the name of Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, the “father” of cosmonautics. (Credit: NASA/Victor Zelentsov)

Russian cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitry Petelin and American astronaut Frank Rubio will use Soyuz MS-23 to return to Earth in September after a one-year mission. They were originally set to return in March aboard Soyuz MS-22 after 188 days in space.

The original Soyuz MS-23 crew of Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kononenko and Nikolai Chub and U.S. astronaut Loral O’Hara have been bumped to a later flight.

SpaceX will launch the Crew-6 mission on Feb. 26. The crew is composed of NASA astronauts Stephen Bowen and Warren Hoburg, United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi and Russian cosmonaut Andrey Fedyaev. The six-month mission will be the first long-term stay in space by an UAE astronaut.

Upcoming Launches

DateLauncher – OrganizationPayload – OrganizationPurposeLaunch Site
Feb. 23Long March 3B/E – CASCChinaSat-26 – China SatcomCommunicationsXichang
Feb. 23Falcon 9 – SpaceXStarlink – SpaceXCommunicationsCape Canaveral
Feb. 24Soyuz-2.1a – RoscosmosSoyuz MS-23 – RoscosmosISS crew returnBaikonur
Feb. 24Long March 2C – CASC??Jiuquan
Feb. 26Falcon 9 – SpaceXCrew Dragon – SpaceXISS crewKennedy
Feb. 27Falcon 9 – SpaceXStarlink – SpaceXCommunicationsVandenberg
March 1Falcon 9 – SpaceX40 OneWeb – OneWebCommunicationsCape Canaveral

SpaceX will continue its high launch cadence as we finish February. The company is aiming to launch 100 times this year after completing 61 flights in 2022.

China has a pair of launches scheduled for the coming week.

Orbital Launch Stats

U.S. companies have launched 15 times this year. SpaceX accounts for 12 of the 13 successful launches. Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket has the only other success. ABL Space Systems and Virgin Galactic each suffered a failure.

Orbital Launches by Nation
Through Feb. 19

United States1321562.5

China is in second place with five launches. China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) launched four times, with Galactic Energy conducting one flight of its Ceres-1 small satellite booster.

India’s Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV) succeeded on its second launch after failing on its first. Japan launched the H-IIA booster once.

Launches by Company/Agency
Through Feb. 12

Galactic Energy1015
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries1011
Rocket Lab1013
ABL Space Systems0110
Virgin Orbit0110
* China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation

SpaceX once again leads the world with a dozen launches, followed by CASC with five. Roscosmos has launches twice, while six other providers have one launch apiece under their belts.

SpaceX has launched 93.5 percent of all satellites so far this year. Six Falcon 9 orbited 315 Starlink satellites plus two payloads from other companies. The Transporter-7 rideshare mission launched 114 satellites last month.

Launches by Booster
Through Feb. 12

Launch VehicleCompany/AgencySuccessesFailuresTotal
Falcon 9SpaceX11011
Long March 2C, DCASC303
Ceres-1Galactic Energy101
ElectronRocket Lab101
Falcon HeavySpaceX101
Long March 7ACASC101
LauncherOneVirgin Orbit011
RS1ABL Space Systems011

SpaceX launched Falcon 9 rockets 11 times and the Falcon Heavy once. China’s Long March 2C and 2D rockets launched a combined three times.

Launches by Location
Through Feb. 12

Cape CanaveralUSA707
Mid-Atlantic Regional SpaceportUSA101
Satish DhawanIndia101
PSC – AlaskaUSA011

Florida remains the busiest launch location on Earth with nine launches. Vandenberg is in second place with three launches, followed by Baikonur and Jiuquan with two each.