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Japan's potential SpaceX competitor achieves mixed results in first launch

Darrell Etherington

A Japanese startup commercial rocket launch attempted to launch a 10-meter tall 'Momo' rocket to orbit on Sunday, but while the rocket achieved liftoff, it only made it about one-fifth of its total target altitude. The failure to reach orbit isn't dissuading Interstellar Technologies, however – the company will try again, and should be able to improve its process using valuable data gathered in its inaugural attempt.

The rocket launch, which was the first in Japan funded by private sources as Bloomberg reports, took off from a launch platform on the Japanese island of Hokkaido, in the country's north. The goal of Interstellar Technologies, which has secured funding from a number of sources including public crowdfunding, is to help decrease the cost of reaching orbit, which is a similar goal held by Elon Musk's SpaceX.

Momo's rocket made it to roughly 20 km (12 miles) above the ground, when the launch crew lost contact and triggered the emergency engine shutdown. The target altitude was 100 km (62 miles), which is regarded as the boundary between the Earth's atmosphere and outer space.