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H-IIB Launch Vehicles


The history of launch vehicle development in Japan begins with the 1955 success of Professor Hideo Itokawa, of The University of Tokyo, in building and launching the Pencil Rocket. This initial success was followed by various transitions in Japan’s rocketry, but in 1984 Japan launched the H-II launch vehicle, made entirely in Japan.

Work then began on the development of the H-IIA launch vehicle system, an improvement on the H-II model. The H-IIA launch vehicle has been used to make 18 launches in total, of which 17 have been successful. It has improved capabilities in comparison to the H-II model, together with better cost efficiency. This helped to place the H-IIA, and Japan, at the forefront of this internationally competitive market. The H-IIA launch vehicle has proved vital in boosting the development of space industries in multiple sectors.

Since the beginning of the 21st century, space development has increasingly required a firm base in research and commerce. In order to compete in this fierce international market, the H-IIA launch vehicle system needed to be further improved, and this prompted the start of work on an improved model, the H-IIB launch vehicle, from 2003 onwards. The development program was enormous, costing 41.7 billion yen in total (initial research budget of 26.2 billion yen, additional research costs of 800 million yen, manufacturing costs of test system 14.7 billion yen).

(Mitsubishi Heavy Industry, LTD.)
(Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency)
Basic Data
Operating country Japan
Developers Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), Mitsubishi Heavy Industries
Operating facility JAXA
Testing period 2009–present
Launch sites LA-Y, Tanegashima Space Center, Japan
Total launches 2 (Successes: 2)
Development cost 27 billion yen