MHI H2A Launch vehicle on launch pad in Japan.

MHI H2A Launch vehicle on launch pad in Japan


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

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.

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-tonne geostationary satellites at one time, which was a great cost saving over two separate H-IIA flights. This would help reduce the overall cost of satellite projects, which made the H-IIB a strong commercial asset.

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 (SS/L) for the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA).

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.