First private Japanese rocket reaches space

The modest test expanded the horizons for private spaceflight.

Japan can finally include itself among the ranks of countries with successful private spaceflight outfits. Interstellar Technologies has successfully launched its MOMO-3 sounding rocket into space, with the vehicle easily crossing the Kármán line (62 miles in altitude) before splashing into the Pacific. It's a modest start -- the rocket only stayed aloft for 8 minutes and 35 seconds -- but it's also a relief after Interstellar's previous two attempts ended in failure.

There was a fair amount riding on the mission. Interstellar's ultimate aim is to ferry small satellites into orbit at a fraction of the cost of government launches, and this takes the company one step closer to achieving its dream. It also relieves some of the pressure on Interstellar founder Takafumi Horie. There had been skepticism about the Livedoor creator's spaceflight chops given his controversial entrepreneurial history (including a conviction for accounting fraud). This shows that his initiative can work on a basic level -- the challenge is translating a test like this into a full-fledged business.