TOKYO, Dec. 16, 2009 (Kyodo News International) -- Japan canceled the development of the GX rocket for the launch of commercial satellites after determining it would consume funds for other projects and its business prospects are not promising, the government said Wednesday.
The joint government-private sector project was expected to require a further 94 billion yen in the state budget until the completion of the two-stage rocket and a government panel on cutting wasteful spending had recommended that it should be scrapped.
The cost of launching the rocket was estimated at 8 billion yen, a level judged unlikely to attract business from Russian and American ventures.
The government said it will continue part of the project for the development of a liquefied natural gas-powered (OOTC:LNGLF) engine, which was to be used in the rocket for launching small and midsize commercial satellites.
The project has suffered delays and unexpected cost increases that have prevented the venture from entering the space launch business.
The project began in 2003 with the state-run Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, known as JAXA, major heavy machinery maker IHI (OOTC:IHITF) Corp. and U.S. defense contractor Lockheed Martin Corp. (NYSE:LMT) taking part.
As Japan currently leads the race for developing an LNG engine, the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry has decided to submit a 5.8 billion yen budget request for that part of the project for fiscal 2010 starting April.
But the working group of the Government Revitalization Unit that suggested the rocket project should be scrapped also called for the development of the engine to be shelved.