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Japan awards development agreements with four rocket startups

Capitalism in space: Japan’s space agency this week awarded development agreements to four Japanese rocket startups, signaling that nation’s attempt to shift from depending on JAXA’s government-built rockets to becoming a customer of an industry of competing commercial rocket companies.

Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and Interstellar signed a basic agreement in March. Space One, whose Kairos solid rocket exploded seconds after liftoff earlier this month, was also selected under the JAXA-SMASH (JAXA-Small Satellite Rush Program) initiative. Two further companies also signed basic agreements. These are Space BD and Mitsui Bussan Aerospace, which offer services aimed at the commercial utilization of space.

The agreements mean the companies will have priority for future contracts. These are designed to support private-sector entities capable of launching satellites developed under JAXA’s small satellite missions and advance the commercialization of space transportation services.

These deals are part of a new policy announced in November that includes $6.6 billion to help encourage the growth of a Japanese commercial space sector, independent of that nation’s space agency.

It remains uncertain whether JAXA will let go the purse strings and actually allow these new companies ownership of what they do. The deals as described sound like the agency is using its power to attempt to capture the companies, rather than encourage their independent growth.

We shall have to wait and see. On its face this announcement is very good news for Japan’s space industry, as it suggests that things might be changing.

Genesis cover

On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

The ebook is available everywhere for $5.99 (before discount) at amazon, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit. If you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and the author gets a bigger cut much sooner.

The audiobook is also available at all these vendors, and is also free with a 30-day trial membership to Audible.

"Not simply about one mission, [Genesis] is also the history of America's quest for the moon... Zimmerman has done a masterful job of tying disparate events together into a solid account of one of America's greatest human triumphs."--San Antonio Express-News

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