The launch services contract with the customer is concluded about two years in advance from the launch. While most of the processes proceed according to the contract schedule, the manufacture of some of the launch vehicle components actually starts before the contract is signed. Once the contract is finalized we conduct various analyses, assemble the vehicle, and perform engine firing tests according to the satellite manufacturing schedule. The launch takes place after the final functional test have been completed.
Parts and subcomponents manufactured by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and related manufacturers are sent to Nagoya Aerospace Systems Works. The first and second stage liquid rocket engines, the core components of the launch vehicle, are manufactured by Nagoya Guidance and Propulsion Systems Works. When necessary, cracks may be checked by nondestructive tests. Once the first and second stages are assembled, electrical and functional tests are performed to confirm that electrical signals properly get through, that the engine nozzle (fuel gas outlet) works as instructed, and that radio waves are properly transmitted and properly received by antennae. Next, after the pre-shipment review, the launch vehicle is shipped to the launch site. This usually takes place about eighteen months in advance of the launch.
Factory Operations (Launch Vehicle Outfitting Assembly)
When the launch vehicle is transported to the launch site, the first stage, second stage, and solid rocket boosters are joined together, or mated. Then come an overall system check and a final evaluation of the launch vehicle. Meanwhile, the satellite is transported to the spacecraft test and assembly building at the launch site and separately inspected. When the preparations for loading onto the launch vehicle are complete, the satellite is delivered to us for mating with the satellite separation system and encapsulation in the payload fairing. The launch vehicle and satellite are then mated.
Once the satellite is mated with the launch vehicle, we begin preparing for the final countdown. This starts with a check to ensure that all signals between the satellite and launch vehicle are functioning correctly. After a final check by our review board three days before launch, the countdown commences. After the launch, we report the results to the customer in a post-launch meeting.