Launch of Japanese Mars probe is postponed until 2026

Representatives of the Japanese space agency JAXA reported that the launch of the Martian Moons eXploration (MMX) probe has been postponed until 2026. The reason for this is the situation around the H3 rocket. It was supposed to take it into space.

MMX probe. Source: JAXA

Launch of the Japanese MMX mission is postponed

The Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency announced that the launch of the probe, which was supposed to explore Mars and its moons, was postponed to 2026. When the window for the launch to the red planet opens again. 

Previously, it was expected that the Martian Moons eXploration or MMX mission would launch in September 2024. It was expected to travel in space for almost a year and reach the red planet in August 2025. After that, its three-year mission was to begin, and in 2029, it was supposed to return to Earth.

MMX is a spacecraft weighing about 4,000 kilograms that has a set of instruments for exploring Mars and its two small moons — Phobos and Deimos. There is also a small rover on board, jointly developed by the French space agency CNES and their DLR colleagues to explore Phobos.

The main mission of MMX is to land on Phobos and collect samples to return to Earth. Scientists plan to analyze the samples to determine if Phobos and probably Deimos were formed as a result of a collision of a large object with Mars, or if these are small asteroids that were captured by the planet’s gravity.

H3 rocket

However, all these plans should be reviewed now. JAXA does not hide the fact that at least part of the reason for this is the situation with the H3 rocket, which was supposed to launch MMX into space. This is a new carrier that should replace those that Japan uses now.

The H3 should have been put into operation a few years ago. However, its first two flights took place only in 2023. Both of them were unsuccessful. JAXA has now announced that a new H3 launch attempt will take place in February 2024.

But even if it is successful, scientists are not ready to entrust the Mars probe to a new rocket. They claim that they simply will not have time to carry out all the necessary safety tests before September. Therefore, samples from Phobos will arrive at Earth no earlier than in 2031.

According to

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