Japan creates $1 billion fund for private space start-ups

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The new colonial movement: Japan’s government has created a $940 million fund that will be used to help new space companies get started.

The funds will be made available through investments and loans over the next five years, as part of a government-led initiative to double Japan’s more than $11 billion space industry. With less than 20 Japanese space start-ups currently operating, many see this as critical to helping new companies cover costs such as research or applying for patents. “We believe this will be remembered as a turning point for our burgeoning industry,” Takeshi Hakamada, CEO and founder of lunar exploration start-up ispace, said in a statement.

Ispace has received government backing in the past, including during a recent $90.2 million round of funding that included Suzuki Motor and Japan Airlines. Founded seven years ago, ispace is stepping beyond the Google-backed Lunar XPRIZE competition to fund two exploration missions to the moon, with the first by the end of 2019 and the second by the end of 2020.

The Japanese government is setting up an agency to manage the funds and connect start-ups with local talent from organizations such as the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency or the rocket-building arm of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. Initially, start-ups will be eligible to each receive about $100,000 in aid to help present concepts to investors. Promising ventures and more mature companies will be able to tap into the rest of the $940 million fund to further development.

More details here.

The most interesting aspect however of this new effort is the decision by Japan to also review its space law in order to encourage private ownership in space.

Japan also announced it is considering new laws and policies that would allow businesses to own plots of land developed on the moon, in a similar manner to the laws passed by the United States and Luxembourg. So far, the U.S. and Luxembourg are the only two countries in the world to have passed laws giving corporations ownership of materials mined in space, but only after they’ve been extracted. That legal framework has seen the tiny European country attract dozens of space companies, with another 70 space companies looking to establish in Luxembourg, according to Deputy Prime Minister Etienne Schneider.

They will find, as have the U.S. and Luxembourg as well as UAE, the United Kingdom, and a number of other countries that have reviewed the Outer Space Treaty, that this legal framework under this treaty will not work well, and still leaves the ownership rights of private companies very vulnerable. To protect property rights in space, either the Outer Space Treaty has to be changed to allow the establishment of national borders and laws, or dumped entirely.



  • ken anthony

    Rights only exist due to force. When govt. is that force, their are no rights. But then, any collection of people trying to defend their rights are by definition a govt.

    Then there is the question of citizen vs. subject. A subject is property. Is it possible to own anything when you are in turn are owned?

    Last we have jurisdiction. At what point does govt. lose the right to control peoples lives? When convenient, govt. will deny jurisdiction to people that have a clear interest in the results… but then just assume jurisdiction over people operating completely independent of any govt.

    People have given their rights up over time to the point they think rights come from govt. This is extremely dangerous. The only solution is if enough people wake up and fix our education system.

    Immigrants, BTW, can make great Americans. But not if we don’t screen for American values. A phrase that’s probably a micro-aggression these days.

    Personally I think the earth is lost and they’re working to ruin mars before we ever get there. The only hope is mars requires tougher colonists with focused minds. The main advantage of frontiers is they weaken govt. control… for a limited time.

    The correction would be for govt. to religiously stick to there one and only legitimate purpose and never do anything else. The only role govt should have is to protect it’s citizens from the reach of other govts. That’s it. Other stuff like promoting the general welfare is the trap.

  • wayne

    Murray Rothbard –
    “Who Is The State?”
    (excerpt from: “For A New Liberty, The Libertarian Manifesto.”)

  • Dick Eagleson

    Nice that the Japanese are aligning their legal system anent space resources in ways like those already adopted here and in Luxembourg.

    But I have my doubts much will come of this government-supported fund to boost space start-ups. The Japanese have long been big on “national initiatives.” In the past there have been such initiatives aimed at software construction, supercomputing and AI. None of them amounted to much. The Japanese are almost Russia-like in their reverence for centrally-planned efforts despite not obviously having ever really profited by any of them.

    This latest effort smacks a lot of Russia’s centralized effort to nurture innovation, the Skolkovo incubator. The only noteworthy company to emerge from that was Dauria Aerospace. Its founders, as a reward for their success, were summarily expropriated and their company given to one of Putin’s favored oligarchs a couple years back. In Russia, IPO means In Pocket of Oligarch. The Japanese efforts probably won’t end so starkly, but I don’t anticipate much actually coming out of them either.

  • “Rights only exist due to force.”

    Respectfully disagree with prejudice.

    The statement is a gross oversimplification or unaware of the Enlightenment.

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