Japan climbed a technological mountain in developing the main propulsion system for its H-II space launcher series in the 1980s and ’90s, producing an engine of difficult configuration that was comparable with the best that had been achieved for NASA. Then Japan climbed down from that mountain. Launching development of an engine for an H-II successor in 2014, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) decided that the remarkable efficiency the old launcher’s first-stage ...

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