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'KAIROS' Rocket Aims for Japan's First Private Satellite Launch

Check back for the updated schedule for the KAIROS launch. The SPACE ONE project anticipates future private sector support for Japan's space exploration.



Graphic image of SPACE ONE's KAIROS rocket (provided by the company)

UPDATE: On March 9, the small solid-fuel launch vehicle KAIROS was scheduled to embark on its maiden flight from Spaceport Kii in Kushimoto, Wakayama Prefecture. The space launch window was centered around 11 AM, JST. However, on the same morning SPACE ONE, a space business company based in Tokyo, announced that it would postpone the launch. No reason for the delay was given. Stay tuned for the new schedule: This post will be updated when a new launch schedule is announced.

Spaceport Kii is Japan's first private rocket launch site, operated by SPACE ONE. This was to be the first attempt at launching an artificial satellite by a Japanese business venture. Eventually, SPACE ONE aims to achieve up to 20 launches annually. The company is expected to play an important role in space transportation. In addition, the local community is also paying close attention.

Reduced Preparation Time with Solid Fuel

KAIROS was developed with the concept of a "space delivery service." Its main strength lies in its usability. With a length of approximately 18 meters (59 feet), it is about one-third the size of Japan's mainstay H-IIA rocket. It weighs 23 metric tons, which is also considered light. 

Additionally, KAIROS runs on solid fuel, which shortens the preparation time for launch. This allows its launch to be scheduled merely four days after the satellite is delivered to the site. 

Furthermore, control procedures on KAIROS have been automated. This allows the rocket to send destruction commands automatically in case of anomalies, reducing the need for personnel. In fact, the launch will be carried out with just over a dozen staff members.

SPACE ONE aims to achieve 20 rocket launches annually by the mid-2020s. It strives to become the world's highest-frequency space transport service. 

The company's President Masakazu Toyoda says, "Japan doesn't have many rockets that are easy to use, limiting the opportunities for rocket launches. I hope KAIROS will become a user-friendly foundation."

Gaining a Competitive Edge

When launched, this rocket carry into space a short-term small satellite for the Cabinet Satellite Intelligence Center. The launch team aims to verify whether these small Japanese satellites can take on the role of information-gathering satellites for the government.


The Japanese government is also closely watching SPACE ONE's initiative. To make future space development a catalyst for sustainable economic growth, it sees the power of the private sector as indispensable.

The Cabinet formulated the Basic Plan on Space Policy in June 2023. Next, in FY 2024, it will also release its "Space Technology Strategy" outlining private sector support for satellite and space transport, exploration, and other developments.

Jun Kazeki, Director-General of the Cabinet's Strategic Headquarters for Space Development (SHSD), spoke about this during a press conference after the launch of the H3 rocket in February 2024.

Kazeki explained that Japan aimed to secure "30 mainstay rockets, including privately owned ones, by the early 2030s." He added that "the government will firmly support and attract private investment to ensure international competitiveness."

According to SHSD, launch demand is increasing due to the expansion of commercial services using artificial satellites. The number of rocket launches worldwide reached a record high of 212 in 2023. The United States led with 108 launches, of which SpaceX accounted for 96. 

Meanwhile, Japan lagged behind with only two launches in 2023. However, the country aims to increase this to 15 times the current level in 5 to 10 years. This cannot be achieved without private companies.

Spaceport Kii, Japan's first private rocket launch site, as seen on February 26 from a helicopter (©Kyodo)

All Tickets Sold Out

The launch of KAIROS was to be live-streamed online. Paid viewing areas were set up near the launch site in Kushimoto and the adjacent town of Nachikatsuura. Additionally, more than ten public viewing venues were set up in various locations including in Wakayama Prefecture and Tokyo. JAPAN Forward expects SPACE ONE to make the same arrangements for its new launch schedule.

At 1 pm on January 29, 5,000 tickets for the viewing areas went on sale. They were sold out by the afternoon of January 31. Canceled tickets that were released on February 26 were sold out on the same day. A two-day tour planned by Nachi Katsuura Tourism Organization was fully booked within a few days of its announcement.

Furthermore, bookings at major accommodation facilities in both Kushimoto and Nachikatsuura have surged. At a hotel in Nachikatsuura, reservations have increased since late January when the launch schedule was announced.


Spaceport Kii was completed in Kushimoto in 2022. The location is ideal as there is no land in the south or east of the launch site. Tourism expectations for the town have been increasing since its completion. To ease traffic congestion on launch day, all municipal and sightseeing buses will be suspended.

Kushimoto's Mayor Katsumasa Tashima says, "The significance of the rocket extends beyond tourism promotion. Moreover, for local children, witnessing rocket technology up close will have a significant impact on their outlook on life."


(Read the report in Japanese.)

Authors: Takanori Hanawa, Takashi Otani, and Eijiyu Cho, The Sankei Shimbun

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