Following a disappointing failed launch of their Momo sounding rocket last month, the Japanese aeronautics company, Interstellar Technologies has announced that they plan to try again before the end of the year. A spokesman for the company added that they will continue to work on a “small launch vehicle” despite the setback.
The Basics of Sounding Rockets
Sounding rockets, or research rockets are designed to take measurements during a short sub-orbital flight. The name is derived from a nautical term, “to sound”, a term that simply means, would you believe, to take measurements.
Sounding rocket launches can be used to test equipment that will later be used in satellites and spacecraft in zero-gravity conditions. However, a bulk of sounding rocket launches are used to run experiments in zero-gravity and to conduct ground surveys without the need for expensive orbiting satellites. NASA has been using these rockets since the late 50s and currently employs 15 different kinds of sounding rockets for various research purposes.
The Failed Launch
Interstellar Technologies attempted to launch the first privately funded sounding rocket in Japan late last month. After being launched from a site on the coast of Hokkaido, the rocket only managed to reach a peak altitude of 20 kilometers. The altitude achieved fell well short of the planned 100 kilometer ceiling, a ceiling that would have marked its passage past the commonly-held demarcation of space known as the Karman Line.
In a post-launch interview, Shuhei Horio, an engineer for the firm identified a loss in telemetry as the cause of the failure. The loss of the rocket’s telemetry meant the early termination of the launch and in turn, the disappointing attitude. However, on a more unbeat note, Horio revealed that there had be no problems leading up to the loss and that they are confident the second launch later this year will be successful.
Interstellar Technologies Ambitions
Although the company’s second rocket will launch without a payload, Interstellar Technologies plans to begin offering commercial launches of Mono at $300,000 a flight as soon as possible. Each flight is being marketed as offering 4 minutes of microgravity with a maximum payload of 20 kilograms. Once fully operational, the company hopes to launch a rocket every one to two months.
Additionally, Interstellar Technologies is looking forward to bigger things and is currently developing a small launch vehicle. Planned to begin launching in 2019, the small launch vehicle will offer customers the option of sending 100 kilogram payloads into a sun-synchronous orbit at around 500 to 700 kilometers.