WASHINGTON — British satellite operator Inmarsat announced Dec. 5 it will be the first commercial customer of the next-generation H3 rocket from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries of Japan.
Inmarsat has not identified a satellite for the H3 launch, which is targeted for 2022 — about two years after the rocket is slated to make its debut.
The H3 announcement marks the second launch contract Inmarsat has awarded to Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI). In September 2017, Inmarsat chose the H2-A for a 2020 launch of Inmarsat-6 F1, the company’s first sixth-generation communication satellite.
MHI has been designing the H3 rocket since 2014 as a single replacement for the H2-A rocket it uses for satellite launches and the H2-B rocket it uses for International Space Station resupply missions. The company hopes to launch six to 10 H3 rockets a year, with the bulk of the increase over today’s launch rate of three to four a year coming from the commercial sector.
MHI has blamed limited production capacity and spaceport infrastructure for its low launch rate, and is upgrading infrastructure to alleviate both. The H3 is also expected to cost less on a per-kilogram basis than MHI’s current launchers.
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