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July 2, 2018

Japan’s latest attempts at a private aerospace industry goes down in flames

by John_A

The past several years have seen a surge in private companies interested in space flight. Perhaps the most prominent of them is SpaceX founded by Tesla CEO Elon Musk. SpaceX has seen its fair share of successes and failures along the way, but, so far, things have been going fairly well. Sadly, the same cannot be said for Japan’s private aerospace industry.

Interstellar Technologies’ most recent attempts at launching a rocket have quite literally gone down in flames. On June 30, it was reported by AFP that the launch of the MOMO-2 rocket caught fire and exploded shortly after liftoff. Fortunately, the rocket was unmanned and no one was harmed in the ensuing explosion though it does come as a major setback to Interstellar Technologies which is the first private Japanese company to attempt such a launch.

The unmanned rocket was meant to carry observational supplies and serve as a proof of concept for Interstellar Technologies ability to provide similar services as SpaceX. However, the company has been plagued by a string of setbacks of which this recent explosion is only the most speculator. In last July, the company’s engineers reported that they had lost contact with one of their rockets roughly one minute after it had been launched.

Despite these issues, Interstellar remains undeterred and the company has said it will begin preparations for a new launch once it analyses the data obtained from Saturday’s mission. As of right now, the company has not announced a timetable for when its next launch will occur.

Rather or not Interstellar will be able to compete with the likes of SpaceX remains to be seen though so far it has not shown as much promise. Beyond that, the company’s founder does not command the same level of respect as Elon Musk. Interstellar was founded in 2013 by Takafumi Horie who rose to prominence in the late 1990s and early 2000s as the founder of Livedoor, one of Japan’s most popular ISPs. However, in recent years he has been convicted of fraud and spent almost two years in prison which damaged his reputation in the business community.

That being said, the country’s government-backed institutions have seen plenty of success and even its failures, such as last year’s mini-rocket, hold promise.

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