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Japan space startup aims to compete US rivals within years

TOKYO — A Japanese startup that launched a rocket into space last month plans to provide low-cost rocket services and compete with American rivals such as SpaceX.

Interstellar Technology Inc.’s unmanned MOMO-3 rocket reached 113.4 kilometers (70 miles) in altitude before falling into the Pacific Ocean during its May 4 flight.

Company founder Takafumi Horie said Wednesday it plans to launch a first orbital rocket within the next few years. He says a low-cost rocket business in Japan could accommodate scientific and commercial needs in Asia.

Japan’s government-led space programs have demonstrated top-level technology, but the country has fallen behind globally due to high cost.