UK Space Agency And JAXA Confirm Bilateral Collaboration For Viasat And MHI To Develop Inrange Satellite-Based Launch Telemetry System For Japanese H3 Launch Vehicle

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries' H3 space launch vehicle
The satellite-based launch telemetry system will be demonstrated on MHI’s H3 launch vehicle.

October 5, 2023 - The UK Space Agency (UKSA) and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) have agreed to start bilateral collaboration to develop an in-orbit telemetry relay service, called “InRange”, which will be demonstrated on the H3 launch vehicle.

The bilateral collaboration for InRange builds upon the Memorandum of Cooperation (MoC) signed between both space agencies in 2021. Under this framework, InRange is jointly funded through UKSA’s International Bilateral Fund for the development of a new in-orbit telemetry relay service for space launch vehicles using Inmarsat-Viasat ’s global L-band network in geosynchronous orbit by Viasat and through JAXA for the transmitter and antenna development for the H3 launch vehicle by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd. (MHI).

The UKSA contract announced today for Viasat is valued at £1.7M.

Viasat’s InRange service will reduce the dependency of launch providers on traditional ground-based infrastructure by providing a global in-orbit telemetry solution, using Viasat’s geostationary ELERA L-band satellite network.

By using the InRange service for the H3 Launch vehicle, launch trajectories can be optimized by removing reliance of line-of-sight coverage with ground stations during critical stages of the launch. In some cases, this will also reduce the fuel required to deliver spacecraft into orbit which will increase the mass available for the launch customer’s payload.

Viasat and MHI will work in collaboration to validate the InRange service and demonstrate the capability on an H3 launch. Japanese company NEC Space Technologies, Ltd. will also take part in this project, focusing on the L-band transmitter design which will be integrated into the H3 launch vehicle by MHI. JAXA will collaborate with the parties and play a technical role in integrating InRange into the ground infrastructure.

Dr Paul Bate, Chief Executive of the UK Space Agency, said: “the InRange service will be transformative for launch capabilities around the world, helping to make launch more sustainable by reducing both fuel needs and pressure on ground-based systems, so that spacecraft can take off on their journeys more efficiently.

“The UK Space Agency’s commitment to this project with ViaSat, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and our counterparts at JAXA, through our International Bilateral Fund, puts into practice our firm belief that space is a team sport and that working together with organisations around the world is what enables us to break the barriers of space technology.”

Gary Lay, Vice President of Viasat’s Global Government department, said: “we are delighted to be chosen as a flagship project that demonstrates the deepening ties between the UK and Japan’s respective space industries. We believe Viasat are ideally positioned to provide a reliable, responsive and cost-effective global telemetry system using our unique L-band ELERA network for Japan’s sovereign launch capability.”

Masashi Okada, Project Manager, H3 Project Team, Space Transportation Technology Directorate of JAXA, said: “JAXA remains delighted to announce the launch of the InRange project. We would like to thank the UK Space Agency for selecting the InRange project as a project that will contribute to strengthening the economic and strategic relations between the UK and Japan in space. 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 than before. 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.”

Atsutoshi Tamura, Vice President and Senior General Manager of Space Systems at MHI said: ‘MHI is delighted to work with Viasat on this innovative project, InRange. During planning of a launch vehicle’s flight trajectories, we sometimes experience constraints due to limited visibility of the launch vehicle from ground stations. We believe that InRange is a solution that reduces such constrains and it will help us to continue to provide flexible launch services to a wide range of customers, for example commercial satellite operators and those planning planetary missions. We hope that this project will promote further collaboration between the UK and Japan in the space development industry.”

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