Japanese firm to launch commercial flights to space by 2023

Tokyo,  A Japanese start-up has announced it is designing an innovative unmanned spacecraft that will be put to trial in 2019 to fly commercially to space by 2023.

PD Aerospace, based in Nagoya (central Japan), has raised 520 million yen ($4.78 million) from five companies, including one of Japan’s largest airlines, All Nippon Airways (ANA), for the project, Efe news reported.

“Commercialization of space has progressed exponentially primarily in USA,” PD Aerospace CEO Shuji Ogawa said in a statement on Friday, adding that the company seeks to “play a part in the future of space transportation for the new era as soon as possible”.

The aircraft would be equipped with an engine that would alternate between reaction mode and a rocket to create Japan’s first passenger aircraft capable of reaching outer space up to an altitude of 100 km and reenter the atmosphere.

Last July, the company had succeeded in an experimental propulsion system, a world first, which can alternate between a jet engine and rocket engine function, and now it is seeking to fine tune the design.

The company plans to conduct three tests with unmanned planes by 2019 and launch its first commercial space flight by late 2023.