Japanese New Space startup, PD Aerospace, has successfully raised U.S.$4.78 million in funding from five investors that include ANA Holdings, parent company of Japanese airline All Nippon Airlines (ANA), and H.I.S., one of Japan’s largest travel agencies.
PD Aerospace is developing an unmanned spaceplane that will be the precursor to manned flights into so-called ‘near space’ (in the case of PD Aerospace, at about 100 kilometers altitude) by 2023. PD Aerospace’s business model involves offering five-minute flights to 100 km altitude for paying customers using a spaceplane with a hybrid jet and rocket engine that will take off and land on a regular runway much like a regular airplane.
According to the PD Aerospace website, the company hopes to win business from the space tourism, media, and Earth observation markets.
“We can provide microgravity environment during ballistic dives from high altitude for several minutes, allowing for filming and other experiments opportunities. It can be applied to the fields of science, industry, and other services,” PD Aerospace writes on its website. “We will provide multipurpose observation service by making full use of the characteristics of unmanned spaceplane’s responsiveness, mobility and crucial compatibility. This is suitable for observations of dangerous areas with promptness required,” it adds.
The proposed PD Aerospace spaceplane will be 8 meters long and will weigh 3.5 tons. The U.S.$4.78 million raised will be used to develop three new unmanned aircraft to add to the four already used by PD Aerospace for testing its spaceplane concept. Further, the new funding will allow the Nagoya-based company to speed up its activities and increase the number of test flights in 2019.
PD Aerospace’s relationship with ANA Holdings and H.I.S. dates back to December 2016 when it formed a strategic partnership – that included capital – with the two large companies as part of their ambitions to expand into the New Space sector and market.
Eschewing aid from the Japanese government, PD Aerospace Chief Executive Officer Shuji Ogawa is determined to develop Japan’s only privately owned and funded spaceflight company, writing that, “Our company is not dependent on government policies or enormous funds; we are looking to develop a manned spaceplane as one private company. Fully mobilizing my knowhow and experiences I have gained in my previous careers, I wish to bring up a revolutionary technology in the field of aerospace, and hence bring our challenge to life. ”