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Aerospace & Defense

First private Japan launcher to recover payload after space trip

Interstellar Technologies pushes boundaries with maverick founder Takafumi Horie

Founded by maverick entrepreneur Takafumi Horie, Interstellar Technologies is working on reducing the cost of rocket launches. (Photo courtesy of Interstellar Technologies)

SAPPORO, Japan -- Rocket startup Interstellar Technologies will attempt to launch a robotic payload into space and recover when it falls back to earth this summer, in hopes of becoming the first privately owned Japanese company to do so successfully.

"This challenge is extremely meaningful," Interstellar founder Takafumi Horie told reporters on Tuesday. "There are many things we are developing for the first time. We hope to ensure certainty and make the launch a success."

Horie quickly rose to fame during Japan's internet boom in the early 2000s as CEO of Livedoor. Despite later being arrested over financial irregularities, he maintains a devoted following and a reputation as a maverick entrepreneur.

Interstellar hopes to provide inexpensive launch services for customers. Having the ability to recover payloads would expand its range of services.

Interstellar will launch its Momo sounding rocket on a suborbital flight. When the rocket reaches the edge of outer space, it will release its payload. Once the payload falls back to earth and splashes down in the ocean, Interstellar will recover it.

"It's an important technology that opens up new possibilities, and we hope the launch makes people feel closer to space," CEO Takahiro Inagawa said.

Interstellar aims to raise 5 million yen ($48,200) via crowdfunding for the launch between Monday and April 28.

The Hokkaido-based startup launched the first Momo in 2017. Out of five total launches so far, the only one to successfully reach space was Momo-3 in May 2019.

The company aims to reduce the cost of a launch by increasing frequency, and is also developing the Zero rocket, designed to launch ultrasmall satellites into space.

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