UK and Japan space agencies team for orbital telemetry network

InRange will eliminate reliance on line of sight for the H3 launcher

The UK Space Agency (UKSA) and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) have teamed to build an in-orbit telemetry relay service named InRange to assist Japan's latest launch rocket, the H3.

"By using the InRange service for the H3 launch vehicle, launch trajectories can be optimized by removing reliance on line-of-sight coverage with ground stations during critical stages of the launch," explained JAXA in a canned statement.

JAXA added that in some cases, the telemetry relay service will reduce the fuel needed to place a spacecraft in orbit, increasing payload capacity.

UKSA chief executive Paul Bate noted that the move will reduce the pressure placed on ground-based systems.

"The InRange service will increase the flexibility of the H3's flight trajectories, and that will enable the H3 to meet the diverse needs of the launch customers. We will step up our efforts so as to successfully deliver the second test flight and will continue to promote the development of the H3 by realizing this project," summarized JAXA H3 project manager Masashi Okada.

The telemetry service will use Inmarsat-Viasat's geostationary ELERA L-band satellite network, in a $2 million-plus (£1.7 million) deal. JAXA will provide the transmitter and the antenna development, and also play a technical role in integrating the service into ground infrastructure.

Japanese vendor NEC Space Technologies will assist in the L-band transmitter design, which Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) will integrate into the H3 launch vehicle.

Viasat and H3 manufacturer MHI will together validate the InRange service – proving it all works once the rocket launches.

The H3 vehicle is intended to replace the H-IIA, which has served JAXA for over 20 years and is scheduled to be make just three more launches.

The new rocket is ten years in the making. It is also modular, expendable, and designed to be launched independently or with the assistance of two or four solid fuel boosters. It is expected to halve the cost the H-IIA's launch costs.

Unfortunately, the vehicle flopped on its debut launch in March when the upper stage failed to ignite a few minutes. The rocket and its payload – a Japanese land observation satellite – ended up in the ocean.

MHI has reportedly already been engaged to formulate H-3's successor – an unnamed rocket launcher with a recoverable and reusable first-stage booster. JAXA's target is apparently to again halve cost per kilogram for delivery to low Earth orbit. ®

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