Japanese startup enters race to provide low-cost space rockets

A Japanese startup that launched a rocket into space earlier this month plans to provide low-cost rocket services and compete with American rivals such as SpaceX, its founder has said.

Interstellar Technology founder Takafumi Horie said a low-cost rocket business in Japan is well-positioned to accommodate scientific and commercial needs in Asia.

While Japan’s government-led space programmes have demonstrated top-level technology, he said the country has fallen behind commercially due to high costs.

“In Japan, space programmes have been largely government-funded and they solely focused on developing rockets using the best and newest technologies, which means they are expensive,” Mr Horie told reporters in Tokyo.

We can transport more goods and people to space by slashing costs

“As a private company, we can focus on the minimum level of technology needed to go to space, which is our advantage.

“We can transport more goods and people to space by slashing costs.”

Mr Horie said his company’s low-cost MOMO-3 rocket is the way to create a competitive space business in Japan.

Takafumi Horie (Koji Sasahara/AP)

During its May 4 flight, the unmanned MOMO-3 rocket reached 70 miles in altitude before falling into the Pacific Ocean.

The cost to launch the MOMO-3 was about one 10h of the launch cost of Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, the country’s space agency, according to Interstellar chief executive Takahiro Inagawa.

Mr Horie said his company plans to launch its first orbital rocket, the Zero, within the next few years and then it would technologically be on a par with competitors such as Elon Musk’s SpaceX, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and New Zealand engineer Peter Beck’s Rocket Lab.

The two-stage Zero would be twice as long and much heavier than the compact MOMO-3, which is about 32 feet long and 1.5 feet in diameter and weighs about one ton.

It would be able to send satellites into orbit or carry payloads for scientific purposes.

Development of a low-cost commercial rocket is part of a growing international trend in the space business led by the US and aggressively followed by China and others.

At home, Mr Horie could face competition from space subsidiaries of major companies such as Canon and IHI, which have expertise from working with the government’s space agency.

- Press Association

More on this topic

Watch as a suspected meteorite flashes over Northern Australia

World's first black hole watch to take place tonight in Dublin

Island off Cork coast bids for Dark Skies recognition

SpaceX shipment reaches space station after weekend launch

More in this Section

Celtic FC voice ‘regret and sorrow’ for victims of paedophile

Seven injured after explosion on Lyon street

Hunt for fugitive who vowed to surrender if he got 15,000 Facebook likes

US planning to send 1,500 troops to Middle East


Lifestyle

Gardening: Something for everyone at Chelsea Flower Show

Restaurant review: Ristorante Rinuccini - Kilkenny

The Wine List: Will 2019 see the rise of rosé in Ireland?

The Menu: Food news with Joe McNamee

More From The Irish Examiner