Japan Developing Spacecraft for Lunar Orbit Supplies
Aug. 26, 2019 (EIRNS)—The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) plans to develop an unmanned transport spacecraft to have a larger transport capacity than the unmanned supply ship, H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV), which is currently transporting goods to the International Space Station (ISS). JAXA is aiming to conduct the first flight of the new spacecraft in fiscal 2021, reported Asahi Shimbun.
In a new manned Moon exploration project planned under the initiative of the United States, a space station will be constructed to be put in orbit around the Moon. From the station, astronauts will descend to the Moon’s surface and return to the station. The station is also expected to serve as a jumping-off point for a mission to Mars in the future. NASA is aiming to start constructionof the space station in 2022 and realize manned Moon landings in 2024, at the earliest.
The new spacecraft to be developed, the HTV-X, is based on the HTV. However, it will have greater electrical power than the HTV as its solar panels are larger, and its communication speed will be faster. The HTV-X will be able to transport about 5.8 tons of goods, 50% more than the HTV.
With the aging of the ISS, its operations in and after 2024 are unclear. Therefore, JAXA has examined the HTV-X’s transportation capabilities based on the assumption that it will also carry goods to a space station other than the ISS. Japan has yet to announce that it will participate in the new manned Moon exploration project. If it joins the project, JAXA will make it possible for the HTV-X to transport goods to the new space station to be constructed in orbit around the Moon.
The ministry earmarked about ¥3.8 billion in the budget for this fiscal year for development of a successor to the HTV. (The Japanese fiscal year runs from April 1 to the next March 31.) Now, it is aiming to increase the amount drastically to ¥10.8 billion in the budget for fiscal 2020. The current HTV will be decommissioned after the launch of its eighth and ninth generations. The eighth is already scheduled to be launched on Sept. 11. The HTV-X will replace the HTV from fiscal 2021.