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Japan to Test Unmanned Landing/Takeoff System

Space

September 07, 2002|From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Japan's space agency plans to test an unmanned landing and takeoff system next month that it hopes will one day be used in a reusable shuttle or other spacecraft, officials said. The five-part tests will take place on Christmas Island in the Micronesian archipelago of Kiribati and will be followed by a second set of tests next year. Junichi Moriuma of the National Space Development Agency said the tests will use an unmanned airplane equipped with the experimental steep-angle takeoff and landing system.

The system originally was envisioned for use in Japan's Hope-X project, which was started in the 1980s to develop a reusable unmanned space shuttle. Japan had planned to launch Hope-X in 2004, but the project was put on hold two years ago after it fell four years behind schedule. The 20-ton shuttle was to be launched by the domestically developed H-2 rocket, but the program has been plagued by technical glitches and financial problems.

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