Keiji Atsuta, Interstellar business development general manager, (left) shows the Zero rocket to a visitor at the Interstellar Technologies booth during the 37th annual Small Satellite Conference at Utah State University on Aug. 9, 2023. Credit: Kim Raff for SpaceNews

LOGAN, Utah – Japanese launch startup Interstellar Technologies is preparing for a static fire test later this year that could pave the way for orbital launch of its Zero rocket in 2025.

Zero, a vehicle designed to send nearly one metric ton to low-Earth orbit, will 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.”

Suborbital to Orbital

Interstellar developed and launched suborbital rockets before beginning work on an orbital rocket. The company’s Momo suborbital rocket has reached space three times.

Initially, Interstellar engineers were designing an orbital rocket to loft 100 kilograms to low Earth orbit starting in 2020. After surveying the market and finding little demand for vehicles of that size, Interstellar began planning for a larger rocket.

The 25-meter Zero with a 1.7-meter diameter is similar in size to the Rocket Lab Electron.

Zero will launch from Japan’s Hokkaido Spaceport.

“With this launchpad, we can launch to the east side or the south side,” Atsuta said.

Asia and Oceana

Interstellar plans to focus initially on meeting demand for small satellite launches from space agencies and universities in Asia, Australia and New Zealand.

In addition to the suborbital rocket Momo and Zero, Interstellar plans to develop Deca, a large launch vehicle expected to begin flying in the 2030s.

In July, Interstellar announced plans to fuel Zero with liquid biomethane, fuel produced from livestock manure.

Debra Werner is a correspondent for SpaceNews based in San Francisco. Debra earned a bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of California, Berkeley, and a master’s degree in Journalism from Northwestern University. She...