MHI Launch Services

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd. (MHI), headquartered in Tokyo, Japan, is one of the world’s leading heavy machinery manufacturers, with consolidated sales of 3,203 billion yen (28 Billion USD) in 2007. MHI produces approximately 700 products thru various product lines and services including shipbuilding, power plants, chemical plants, environmental equipment, steel structures, industrial and general machinery, aircraft, air-conditioning systems and space rocketry.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Launch Services (MHI Launch Services), a subsidiary of MHI, is a launch provider for spacecrafts and performed a main role in Japanese space programs for about half century.

Japan's current launch vehicle, the H-IIA, was developed by MHI under contract from Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). The new H-IIB launch vehicle is being developed as a partnership between JAXA and MHI. JAXA is responsible for the basic configuration, the first-stage firing tests of the clustering engines, and the total vehicle system verification tests at the launch site. Meanwhile, MHI is responsible for the detailed design and manufacturing of the flight test vehicle and the ground verification tests. The H-IIB will be the first Japanese launch vehicle to use clustered engines.


In 2007, MHI took over H-IIA launch operations from JAXA and started its own commercial launch services. Prior to that, MHI had already been involved in 11 successful H-IIA rocket launches with JAXA. At present, the launch service uses only the H-IIA launch vehicle. Unlike the H-IIA, the H-IIB is capable of launching dual 2- to 4-tonnes geostationary satellites at one time, which is a great cost saving over two separate H-IIA flights. This will help reduce the overall cost of satellite projects, which makes the H-IIB a strong commercial asset.

The H-IIB was the first joint development project between JAXA and MHI when it was shipped to the Tanegashima Space Center in early 2009. JAXA did the research and development and was responsible for the basic configuration while MHI was entrusted with the design, development and manufacturing.

In 2010, NASA's space shuttle was retired. MHI felt the great sense of responsibility to complete the HTV as an essential vehicle to transport materials to the International Space Station (ISS). Pairing up with JAXA was making the first launch of the H-IIB and the HTV a success. The HIIB had increased launch capabilities, and was a derivative of the H-IIA family. H-IIB uses two LE-7A engines in its first stage, as opposed to one in H-IIA. The first H-IIB was successfully launched on September 10th, 2009.

Space development requires high reliability supported by advanced technology, which is expensive. However, having its own launch vehicle would give Japan a strong sense of security and independence.

The first H-IIA was successfully launched on August 29th 2001, followed by a string of successes. The sixth launch on November 29th in 2003, intended to launch two IGS reconnaissance satellites, failed. JAXA announced that launches would resume in 2005, and the first successful flight took place on February 26th with the launch of weather and aviation control satellite, the MTSAT-1R, built by Space Systems/Loral for the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA).

The first launch for a mission beyond Earth orbit was on September 14th, 2007 for the SELENE moon mission. The first foreign payload on the H-IIA was the Australian FedSat-1, a 50kgs weighing Australian scientific micro satellite, in 2002. As of March 2015, 27th out of 28 launches were successful.

For the 29th flight on November 24th, 2015, an H-IIA with an upgraded second stage launched the Telesat’ Telstar-12V satellite, the first commercial primary payload for a Japanese launch vehicle. The Telstar-12V launch took place at the Tanegashima Space Center and was a key event for MHI, given that Telesat was one of the ‘Big Four’ FSS operators. MHI aims to bring the cost of its launch services down to compete with new launch vehicles such as the Falcon 9 of SpaceX and Ariane 6 of Arianespace. These plans will be accelerating around 2020 when the company hopes to bring its H3 launch vehicle to market.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries has played an important role in the development and manufacturing of Japanese space transportation systems from early on. In 2007 MHI started providing launch services with their H-IIA launch vehicle for both commercial and government missions and in 2013, the H-IIB was entered into commercial satellite launch services.



  • MHI takes part in the development of the N-I launch vehicle.


  • Launch of the first N-I launch vehicle (Payload: Engineering test satellite type I "Kiku No. 1" (ETS-I))
  • N-I launch vehicle operations commence (Nos. 1 to 7).


  • N-II launch vehicle development commences.


  • Launch of the first N-II launch vehicle (Payload: Engineering test satellite IV "Kiku No.3" (ETS-IV))


  • N-II launch vehicle operations commence (Nos. 1 to 8).
  • H-I launch vehicle development commences.


  • Launch of the first H-I launch vehicle (Payload: Experimental geodetic satellite "Ajisai" (EGS))
  • H-I launch vehicle operations commence (Nos. 1 to 9).


  • H-II launch vehicle development commences.


  • H-I launch vehicle operations end (Nos. 1 to 9).


  • Launch of the first experimental model of the H-II launch vehicle (Payload: Orbital re-entry experimental vehicle "Ryusei" (OREX))
  • H-II launch vehicle operations commence (Nos. 1 to 8)


  • HTV (Notes) development commences.


  • H-IIA launch vehicle development commences.


  • H-II launch vehicle operations end (Nos. 1 to 6, and No. 8)


  • Launch of first experimental model of the H-IIA launch vehicle (Payload: Payload 2 type "VEP-2" for H-IIA performance confirmation)


  • MHI was appointed as the prime contractor for the launch services of H-IIA launch vehicle by the Japanese government.


  • H-IIB launch vehicle development commences; MHI appointed as the primary company.


  • MHI begins offering H-IIA Launch Services.
  • Successful launch of "Kaguya" (SELENE) aboard H-IIA Flight No. 13


  • Launch of experimental model of the H-IIA launch vehicle (Payload: Technology demonstrator of HTV)


  • Start of the H-IIB Launch Services
  • Successful launch of "KOUNOTORI4" (HTV4) aboard H-IIB Flight No. 4


  • Successful launch of Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) aboard H-IIA Flight No.23
  • MHI was appointed as the prime contractor for both the launch services and the development of Japan's next generation launch vehicle by the Japanese government.
  • Successful launch of Advanced Land Observing Satellite-2 (ALOS-2) aboard H-IIA Flight No.24
  • Successful launch of Geostationary Meteorological Satellite (Himawari-8) aboard H-IIA Flight No.25
  • Successful launch of Asteroid Explorer "Hayabusa2" aboard H-IIA Flight No.26


  • Successful launch of "KOUNOTORI5" (HTV5) aboard H-IIB Flight No. 5
  • Successful launch of Telstar 12 VANTAGE aboard H-IIA Flight No. 29


  • Successful launch of X-ray Astronomy Satellite "ASTRO-H" aboard H-IIA Flight No.30
  • Successful launch of Geostationary Meteorological Satellite "Himawari-9" aboard H-IIA Flight No.31

Watch the MHI Launch Services short promotion video on Youtube!

Launch Services Alliance (LSA)

MHI as well as Arianespace is offering jointly launch services in case a launch vehicle is unable to perform a launch mission. Both companies created the Launch Alliance Services (LSA) in 2003. Launches are executed with either MHI's H-IIA launch vehicle from the largest launch facility in Japan, the Tanegashima Space Center (TNSC), or with the Arianespace’ Ariane 5 rocket using the Kourou Space Center in French Guyana.

LSA was originally created in July 2003 from an initiative of Arianespace with MHI and Boeing Launch Services (BLS), Boeing providing Sea Launch Zenit-3SL (when it was still in operation). LSA arrangement is roughly comparable to the airline industry's 'code-share' agreements, where passengers buy a single ticket that can provide service on the routes of several partner airlines.

With the Launch Alliance Services, mission assurance becomes a reality as customers have the ability to fly on three of the world's finest launch systems: Arianespace's Ariane 5, the Sea Launch vehicle from Boeing Launch Services, and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries' H-IIA. An agreement with the Alliance enables customers to seamlessly transition among these launch platforms for maximum flexibility to ensure delivery to orbit when they want it.

The Alliance's three members continue to retain their marketing autonomy, allowing customers to make the final decision whether they wish to gain access to a much broader set of solutions to orbit than would otherwise be available in today's market.

Launch Vehicles

Check the launch vehicles on datasheets below! 

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Resources   Edition January 13th, 2016