The Japanese hopes to expedite the progress of space startups rocketing toward the ‘final frontier’ by investing funds from a corpus of 100 billion yen ($940 million), in addition to creating a hub for human resources and even considering what legal framework would be required to make commercial real estate developments on the moon a reality.
According to the Nikkei Asian Review, the government is open to offering investments and loans over five years starting from the fiscal year 2018. Japan prepared a business plan and its vision for conquering space this fiscal year. They hope to double the size of the space sector to close to 2.4 trillion yen by the 2030s.
This empire of the sun has increased its investing as it funds more and in recent years. Tokyo based Ispace, a startup developing resources required on the moon; Singapore based Astroscale, a space debris cleaning startup; and Fukuoka based iQPS, a mini satellite developer have received funding from the Japanese government. However the number of desirable startups is less than 20 “and have generally received just billions or hundreds of millions of yen” reports the leading media outlet, which leaves Japan playing catch up to their biggest competition, the US.
Under the initiative, nascent startups will be eligible to receive funding up to 10 million yen each and should cover expenses of research and patent applications. Promising startups with potential to build products of commercial value will be offered the opportunity to meet investors and venture capitalists. Startups currently at a development stage will be eligible to reap benefits from this pool of funding offered through financial institutions such as Development Bank of Japan and the public-private investment fund, Innovation Network Corp. of Japan.
Furthermore technical expertise will be made available to startups with limited access to experienced rocket scientists and systems operators from agencies such as Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.
The government has also taken up the cause of drawing up laws and regulations to let private companies establish ownership of lunar surface they develop on the moon. Such commercial development and land ownership on the lunar surface is not forbidden by the Outer Space Treaty, a United Nations document coming into effect in 1967. However Japanese companies have encountered challenges in actuating these plans. Japanese lawmakers are said to most likely draw inspiration from the Americans in drafting these laws.
The US staregy to nurturing its budding space startups has been to extend subsidies and tax breaks. The rocket company, Space Exploration Technologies, most popularly tagged SpaceX, the brainchild of Elon Musk has reportedly received “subsidies in the hundreds of millions or billions of dollars for development”.