The competition heats up: Using its H-IIA rocket, upgraded to lower cost, Japan launched its first commercial payload today, putting Canada’s Telestar 12V into geosynchronous orbit.
It is not clear if Japan’s government-run space program can compete. The rocket is built by Mitsubishi, but it appears owned and operated by JAXA, the equivalent of Japan’s NASA. It has also been a very expensive rocket to launch, as for much of its existence it has been like SLS, more dedicated to producing pork jobs than actually competing with other rocket companies. Whether they can upgrade it sufficiently to compete in price with other rockets is highly questionable.
Nonetheless, that Japan is trying to compete is good news. The more competition, the better. The effort alone will produce new ideas, which in turn can only help lower the cost to get into space, thus making it possible for more people to afford it.