Space: November 28, 1999


The failed launch of a Japanese H-2 space booster on 15 Nov (resulting in the loss of a $97 million satellite) will delay the H-2A program for months. The Japanese first built the H-2 in 1994, but found it was too expensive to develop as a serious commercial launcher. The new H-2A is designed to be a cheaper version with the same general performance. This was the second consecutive failure for the H-2, but the first involving its liquid-fuel First Stage engine, indicating widespread design problems.--Stephen V Cole 

The first Atlas-III heavy commercial space launcher is expected to lift off in late March or early April. The Atlas-III uses a new Russian RD-180 engine with twin nozzles; it has more than twice the power of the previous Atlas first stage. The new Atlas-III will compete directly against the Delta-III and Ariane-IV in the heavy-lift satellite launch market. The Atlas-IIIA can place 8,950 pounds into geosynchronous orbit; the later Atlas-IIIB will boost this to 9,920 pounds. The current Atlas-IIAS can lift only 8,200 pounds. The Atlas-IIAS costs less than $100 million, and Lockheed Martin expects the Atlas-III to cost no more than this and possibly less.--Stephen V Cole


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