Japan's Interstellar Technologies aims to launch 1st orbital rocket in 2025

a small white rocket stands on a launch pad at night.
The Interstellar Technologies sounding rocket Momo-F5 stands atop its launch pad in Taiki Town, Hokkaido on June 13, 2020 ahead of a launch attempt. (Image credit: Interstellar Technologies Inc.)

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.

Related: Japan's Interstellar Technologies goes full throttle toward small orbital rocket

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.

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.

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Andrew Jones
Contributing Writer

Andrew is a freelance space journalist with a focus on reporting on China's rapidly growing space sector. He began writing for Space.com in 2019 and writes for SpaceNews, IEEE Spectrum, National Geographic, Sky & Telescope, New Scientist and others. Andrew first caught the space bug when, as a youngster, he saw Voyager images of other worlds in our solar system for the first time. Away from space, Andrew enjoys trail running in the forests of Finland. You can follow him on Twitter @AJ_FI.