As it eyes making H-3 (H-III), the next rocket in its family, even more commercially attractive, Mitsubushi Heavy Industries (MHI) has conducted its first commercial launch of a slightly improved “Upgrade” version of its H-2A204 launch vehicle, carrying its first fully commercial payload. After a short delay to move a boat from the launch range, the H-2A204 Upgrade successfully launched the 4,800kg Telstar 12 Vantage communications satellite from the Tanegashima launch site in Japan at 0650 GMT on 24 November 2015.
The Upgrade version of the H-2A has an upper stage designed to coast for a longer period before the third burn into the transfer orbit at its apogee. The modifications included improving the insulation of the liquid hydrogen tank, adding a new battery (lithium ion) to provide power during the coast and allowing the LE-5B engine to fire at lower throttle settings. To prevent sloshing, extra thrusters were also employed.
The Telstar 12 Vantage was built by Airbus Defence and Space using its Eurostar E3000 bus design. The satellite is to operate from geostationary Earth orbit at 15 degrees West for 15 years. It will provide communications services for Europe, the Americas, the Middle East, Africa, the Caribbean, North Sea and Mediterranean.