WASHINGTON — Mitsubishi Heavy Industries still expects to conduct the maiden flight of Japan’s H3 rocket this year, notwithstanding the coronavirus pandemic.
The next-generation rocket, which started development in 2014, will launch as MHI’s last mission of the year, following three H2A missions carrying satellites and one H2B mission to resupply the International Space Station.
“[The] coronavirus situation is quite unclear and may get worse globally,” Ko Ogasawara, MHI’s vice president and general manager for space systems, said by email March 23. “This might affect our plan in the end. But again, today, we will do our best to attain our schedule.”
As of March 25, Japan had reported 1,300 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 45 recorded deaths, according to disease trackers at Johns Hopkins University. The country’s numbers have stayed low despite being one of the first countries outside China with a confirmed case of the disease. Nonetheless, the International Olympic Committee agreed March 24 to postpone the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games to 2021.
Ogasawara, in an interview at the Satellite 2020 conference in Washington earlier this month, said MHI has remained productive on H3 despite many employees required to telework amid school closures and other social ...