Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) has taken over responsibility for all launches of Japan's H-2B rocket from the Japanese government in a move that could bring the vehicle into the global commercial launch market, the Japanese space agency, JAXA, announced Sept. 27.
The transfer of authority means MHI will begin billing JAXA for launch services starting with the rocket's next launch. JAXA retains responsibility for flight safety and flight data acquisition, the agency said.
The privatization of H-2B launches, which had been expected, should result in lower production and operating costs, enabling Japan to become a more regular player in the global commercial launch market, JAXA said in a statement.
MHI's new responsibility followed the successful July 21 launch of the third H-2B vehicle, which placed Japan's unmanned cargo freighter into low Earth orbit for a supply run to the international space station. MHI has been managing H-2A launches since 2007 and will now add the more powerful H-2B to its portfolio.
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