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Japan to Provide Low-Cost Rocket Services to Compete with US Rivals

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

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japan, rocket, spaceX
Japanese entrepreneur and Founder of Interstellar Technologies Inc. Takafumi Horie speaks during a press conference in Tokyo, May 15, 2019. VOA

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 said Wednesday.

Interstellar Technology Inc. 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 programs have demonstrated top-level technology, he said the country has fallen behind commercially due to high costs.

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

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

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

During its May 4 flight, the unmanned MOMO-3 rocket reached 113.4 kilometers (70 miles) in altitude before falling into the Pacific Ocean. The cost to launch the MOMO-3 was about one-tenth of the launch cost of Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, the country’s space agency, according to Interstellar CEO Takahiro Inagawa.

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 par with competitors such as Elon Musk’s SpaceX, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and New Zealand engineer Peter Beck’s Rocket Lab.

spaceX, zero, momo-3 rocket
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 par with competitors such as Elon Musk’s SpaceX. VOA

The two-stage ZERO would be twice as long and much heavier than the compact MOMO-3, which is about 10 meters (32 feet) long and 50 centimeters (1.5 feet) in diameter and weighs about 1 ton. It would be able to send satellites into orbit or carry payloads for scientific purposes.

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

At home, 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. (VOA)

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Elon Musk Shares Pictures of SpaceX’s New Starship Prototypes

Musk is expected to announce the company’s latest update to the Starship on September 28

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Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX and Tesla. Wikimedia Commons

Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has posted two new pictures on Twitter showing the latest construction updates for the Starship rocket prototype that is being built at SpaceXs Boca Chica, Texas facility.

One of the images shows the vehicle, Starship Mk1, which is being assembled at SpaceX’s South Texas facility near the village of Boca Chica, in the background, standing behind a building that contains a variety of parts and other equipment, news portal space.com reported on Wednesday.

Musk captioned the picture: “Droid Junkyard, Tatooine.”

FILE – SpaceX founder Elon Musk tells the 67th International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico, that he envisions 1,000 passenger ships flying en masse to Mars and says it could become reality within a century, Sept. 27, 2016. VOA

The second photo he posted is of a large metal disc being lowered onto Mk1’s body. This he captioned as “Area 51 of Area 51”.

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SpaceX hopes for Starship to be used as a commercial spacecraft that will be able to take off and land like an airplane. It is expected to be ready by 2021.

Musk is expected to announce the company’s latest update to the Starship on September 28. (IANS)