Friday, February 13, 2009

Poor salespeople?

I may be the last person to learn about this, but since it is one of the most blogged stories from The Japan Times site:

Although Japan is the leader in technology, unfortunately we are not very good at sales. For example, H-IIA is Japan's primary space-launch vehicle, the most reliable rocket on earth — or, I should say, in orbit — with 93 percent of all launches successful,
(Based on how many?) yet we are basically producing it for domestic use. Japan Times.

Minister Noda may have used just a bit more puffery in the same interview by describing how Japan has the world's most accurate lunar explorer. Great. Amazing in fact. Based on how many flights? Let me guess---one? (14 Feb: There were 3 satellites on the Kaguya mission.)

Perhaps things have changed for the H-IIA since 2005:

Japan's H-II program has been a showcase effort for the country's commercial launches, but high costs and a sub-par launch record have slowed it. Counting the initial H-II and redesigned H-IIA, the vehicle has had three failures in 14 launches, a 79% success record. By JAXA's calculations, its U.S. competitor, the Boeing Delta, has a 94% liftoff success rate and the European Ariane, a 93% launch success record. JAXA's senior managers say it will take 10-20 straight successes before they can gain the trust of the international launch community. Nineteen of 20 H-IIA launches would give the H-IIA a 95% success rate that would make it globally competitive, they say. Aviation Week. (Uh-oh. 95% would make it globally competitive. Isn't 79% less than 95% even in Japan?)

Oh, they have improved though:

Since the seventh launch in February 2005, the H-IIA launch vehicle has recorded eight consecutive successful launches, a success rate equal to those of LSPs in Europe and the U.S. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries News. (What, 8 successful launches in a row? 13 of 14? Hmmm. I don't know, but I do wonder if US and Europe have a larger number of launches to base their rates on? If so, would their statistics be more reliable?)

Yankee Liars!:

"This launch signifies Boeing's continued commitment to provide our commercial customers with the Delta II vehicle, which has a 98.5 percent launch success rate," said Ken Heinly, director of Boeing's Launch Products & Services and Boeing Launch Services president. Boeing

All Delta Rockets:

There have been over 300 Delta rockets launched, with a 95% success rate. Warning! From Wikipedia

You can calculate the overall Delta (all models) success rate since 1960 for yourself at Boeing's site if you've no life. I have none, so I did a quick count: 336 launches to date with 15 failures---a success rate of 95.5%. Oops. In topsy-turvy Japan, maybe success rates are calculated differently?

Just a few years ago, when these rockets seemed to explode and fall from the sky about every other launch, I used to have fun with some friends whom I could normally joke with. I'd say, "Do you know the difference between a Chinese rocket and a Japanese rocket (China was being quite successful at launches at the time)?

Then I'd take a pencil and blast it off straight up and say "Chinese rocket." Next I would take the same pencil, blast it off, wobble it around before moving it in circles and dropping it to the ground and say "Japanese rocket." They never saw the humor. Even my Commie wife hated it. So I did it more often. Childish, I know. But fun.

Well, good luck with those sales Ms. Noda. Some people will believe anything. I bought a Mac, after all.

Oh, and kudos to the reporter Judit Kawaguchi for such a hard-nosed report. No puff piece there. I wonder---was this interview in the form of submitted written questions and replies?

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