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Japan's First Private Rocket Successfully Launches Into Space

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After several failed attempts, private Japanese aerospace company Interstellar Technologies Inc. have successfully launched its MOMO F3 rocket into a test flight in space. This event is crucial for the future of Japanese private space industry.  ( Interstellar Technologies Inc. )

MOMO F3 sounding rocket by aerospace start-up Interstellar Technologies Inc. successfully launched into space, making it the first private Japanese company to accomplish such feat.

Takahiro Inagawa, CEO of IST, announced that MOMO has successfully launched and achieved the target trajectory. The vehicle also successfully carried its payload along the pre-designated flight trajectory.

This was the first successful attempt following two previous experimental launches of the MOMO series and has provided valuable telemetry data for further development within IST.

Successful Liftoff At Last

The rocket lifted off on May 4, 5:45 a.m. local time at a test site near Taiki, Hokkaido, after a 45-minute delay. The spacecraft reached a peak altitude of 70.5 miles or 113.4 kilometers, beyond the edge of space, before descending back to the Earth’s atmosphere. It plummeted down the Pacific Ocean after an 8-minute, 34-second flight. It reached the so-called Karman line, or the boundary between Earth's atmosphere and outer space.

“It was a complete success. We’ll work to achieve stable launches and mass-produce (rockets) in quick cycles,” said Takafumi Horie, founder of IST.

The launch was originally scheduled in April but was postponed when engineers discovered a glitch in the cryogenic valve. Strong wind and poor flying weather resulted in a couple more delays in early May.

In 2017, IST first attempted to fly the MOMO F-1 rocket, but the mission was terminated due to a problem in the telemetry. A second attempt last year concluded in an explosion that left the rocket in flames a few seconds after it lifted off the launchpad. It was revealed then that a glitch in the main engine caused the rocket to explode as it crashed down on Earth.

What Are Sounding Rockets?

The MOMO launch vehicle is a 33-feet tall liquid-propellant sounding rocket that weighs 1.15 metric tons. As compared to SpaceX Falcon rockets, MOMO can be considered miniature.

Sounding rockets are used to launch small research payloads and science experiments into orbit. These kinds of rockets are not built to be reused. The latest test flight was meant to demonstrate the rocket’s capabilities and technology.

Future Of Interstellar Technologies

The mission is crucial for the Japanese private space industry. IST is the first and only active Japanese company to launch a privately developed rocket into space. The company’s goal is to change the economics of space launch services, with the goal of providing affordable and flexible access to space. The space company was founded in 2013 and aims to develop low-cost commercial rockets to carry satellites to space.

IST said it plans to continuously develop the MOMO spacecraft. It will also introduce a new rocket named Zero, which can launch small satellites that are too heavy for the MOMO to launch. The upcoming spacecraft can carry 100 kilograms of payload. Its first test flight is tentatively scheduled for 2020.

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