Wakayama Town Pins Hopes of Upcoming Private Launch of Rocket from Newly Built Site

Courtesy of Space One Co.
A rendering of Space One’s KAIROS rocket in orbit

WAKAYAMA — KAIROS, a small rocket developed by Space One Co., is set to be launched from Kushimoto, Wakayama Prefecture on March 9.

The Tokyo-based start-up established Space Port Kii, a launch site with an area of about 15 hectares, in a mountainous area of the town.

The space company was founded in July 2018 with investments mainly from Canon Electronics Inc., IHI Aerospace Co. and the Development Bank of Japan. Space One has set a goal of launching 20 rockets a year in the future by commercializing a service in which small satellites from entities including private companies are loaded onto its rockets and sent into orbit.

Space One initially aimed to carry out the maiden launch of KAIROS, which is 18 meters long, in fiscal 2021, but postponed it four times as procurement of parts was disrupted due to the COVID-19 pandemic and Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.

“I’m deeply moved to think that we have finally reached this stage,” Mamoru Endo, an executive of the company, told reporters on Jan. 26.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Space Port Kii in Kushimoto, Wakayama Prefecture

Japan’s 1st private satellite launch

Rocket launches and deployment of satellites into orbit in Japan have been led by public organizations, including the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. The first successful private rocket launch occurred in May 2019 by Interstellar Technologies Inc., a startup based in Hokkaido, though it did not carry a satellite. The inaugural flight of Space One will carry a small satellite from the Cabinet Satellite Intelligence Center, and if it successfully enters orbit, it will be a first for the private sector.

The small satellite will be launched to verify if it can serve as a temporary replacement during malfunctions of information-gathering satellites used for missile launch detection and large-scale disaster assessment, attempting to insert it into orbit at an altitude of 500 kilometers.

The company has scheduled the launch of the first unit for March 9, between 11 a.m. and noon, although it may be postponed depending on the weather.