Japanese company preparing for country’s first private rocket launch

Japanese company preparing for country’s first private rocket launch
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Japanese company preparing for country’s first private rocket launch

The United States has by far the most rich and diverse commercial aerospace industry in the world, but that doesn’t mean companies in other countries aren’t giving it a go as well. One of those companies is Interstellar Technologies, which began as a group of hobbyists in 1997 and became a corporation in 2003.

After more than a decade of engine and booster development, Interstellar is poised to make its first launch attempt—and the first launch of a private rocket from Japan—this weekend. As early as Saturday, the company will attempt to launch a sounding rocket named Momo from the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido. The launch window opens from 10:20 to 12:30 local time.

According to the Momo rocket’s user’s guide, the vehicle stands 8.5 meters tall, has a dry mass of 250kg, and a 0.5-meter diameter. It can deliver 10kg to an altitude of 130km, or 20kg to an altitude of 120km. The duration of the entire flight lasts about 10 minutes depending on the mission profile, and this includes about four minutes of microgravity. Afterward, the payload can be recovered from the ocean.

A single liquid-fueled engine, which uses ethanol for fuel and liquid oxygen as an oxidizer, powers the rocket. This engine (shown being test fired in the embedded Tweet) has a relatively modest thrust of 12kN. By way of comparison, each of the nine Merlin 1-D engines that powers SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket has a thrust of 845kN.

Still, it’s a start. And because the company is using liquid-fueled engines rather than solid rocket motors, the traditional means of powering sounding rockets, it suggests that Interstellar eventually plans to get into orbital flights. The company hopes to do that by around 2020. “The next main business is launching a satellite,” the company’s chief executive, Takahiro Inagawa, said this week. “I want to make that step.” But first, the company will have to master suborbital flights.

Listing image by Interstellar Technologies

Japanese company preparing for country’s first private rocket launch

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