A Japanese space startup has set a target for its first orbital rocket launch.
Interstellar Technologies Inc. says it is now aiming to launch its Zero Rocket in 2025, with static fire tests due later this year as part of its test program.
Zero will be 82 feet (25 meters) long with a 5.6-foot (1.7 m) diameter, slightly larger than Rocket Lab’s Electron vehicle. It will be able to lift around 2,200 pounds (1,000 kilograms) to low Earth orbit and will launch from Japan’s Hokkaido Spaceport.
Interstellar aims for Zero to help meet demand for small satellite launch capacity “not only in Japan, but in the world,” Keiji Atsuta, Interstellar business development general manager, told SpaceNews. “We think that this rocket will change the market.”
Zero was initially scheduled to launch around 2020 with a payload capacity of about 220 lbs (100 kg), but the firm reassessed its plans based on market demand and switched to building a heavier, more capable version.
The company was founded in 2005, back when commercial space activity was underway in the U.S. but not in Japan. Interstellar claims to be the first commercial company in Asia to reach space with a liquid propellant rocket, using its MOMO-F3 suborbital launcher.
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A pair of Chinese startups this year bettered that feat with orbital launches of kerosene and methane-fueled rockets. Zero will use liquid biomethane fuel produced from livestock manure.
Interstellar is also planning on developing a large launch vehicle called Deca to fly in the 2030s. Website renders show clustered engines and grid fins. The latter features are designed to help rockets steer themselves back to Earth for soft landings.