Japan’s burgeoning startup ecosystem in the field of space has garnered international acclaim, propelling advancements in space technology and services. These forward-thinking startups are spearheading innovation and introducing groundbreaking solutions that are transforming the landscape of space exploration, application, and engagement. This article spotlights Japan’s popular space startups, namely Infostellar, GITAI, Astroscale, Synspective, and Skygate Technologies, all of whom are playing a pivotal role in Japan’s ambitious space endeavours.
Japan’s Popular Space Startups
Infostellar, a startup based in Tokyo, is transforming the space industry with its innovative cloud-based services for satellite ground segments. Their StellarStation™ platform, which is proprietary, provides customized ground station services for a wide range of space mission applications. This platform is scalable and can serve single space vehicle missions as well as large constellations of satellites flying in multiple orbital planes. As a provider of ‘Ground Segment as a Service’ (GSaaS) for satellites, Infostellar offers flexible and scalable ground station services through their cloud platform, ‘StellarStation’, which virtualizes ground station networks. This approach enables new space businesses to create better missions and improve the quality of their service by reducing the barriers to entry in the ground segment. Infostellar was founded in 2016 and has its headquarters in Tokyo, Japan, as well as a European office in the UK. They are developing a fast and flexible ground station network called StellarStation, which will empower new space startups to create better missions.
GITAI, a startup based in Tokyo, was founded in 2016 to provide a cost-effective and secure solution for space operations. The company has created remote-controlled robots specifically designed to take over tasks typically performed by astronauts in commercial space stations. GITAI has established a strong partnership with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and conducted a robot demonstration on JAXA’s simulated International Space Station (ISS) Kibo module. They have also collaborated with JAXA to develop guidelines for robotizing the ISS Kibo and have entered into a J-SPARC agreement. As GITAI progressed from the conceptual stage to building prototypes and ultimately deploying their products on the ISS, they successfully attracted venture capital investments. In 2021, GITAI entered into a joint research contract with Toyota Motor Corporation to jointly develop a robotic arm for the “LUNAR CRUISER”. They also secured a procurement contract from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) in the same year. By the end of 2022, GITAI had successfully demonstrated their technology within the ISS.
Astroscale, a private company headquartered in Tokyo, Japan, is committed to commercializing sustainable space activities. Their main focus is on developing services for end-of-life, active debris removal, and life extension to tackle the growing problem of space debris accumulation. By offering a wide range of on-orbit servicing options, Astroscale provides operators and launchers with choices and flexibility, which lays a strong foundation for the expansion of the space economy. With a team of over 450 professionals and subsidiaries in the United Kingdom, the United States, France, and Israel, Astroscale is leading the way in this emerging market. The company has successfully secured significant funding, including a JPY 3 billion Revolving Credit Line from MUFG Bank, a JPY 3 billion Loan Agreement with Mizuho Bank, and a total investment of U.S. $76 Million. Additionally, Astroscale has partnered with Mitsubishi Electric to develop and produce Satellite Buses and received a U.S. $23 Million investment from Yusaku Maezawa, the first private Japanese citizen to visit the International Space Station (ISS).
Tokyo-based space startup Synspective is known for its expertise in designing, constructing, and operating a fleet of Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) satellites. These satellites are crucial in detecting and understanding global changes, and Synspective offers SAR data sales and solution services by combining SAR satellite data with proprietary data analysis techniques. Synspective offers state-of-the-art 100kg class SAR satellites that are known for their innovation, compactness, and cost-effectiveness. These satellites are capable of consistently and reliably collecting data, providing an impressive resolution of 1-3m. As a result, Synspective has become a trusted provider of SAR data and remote monitoring services to government agencies and companies across the globe. Synspective also offers cloud-based solutions that leverage data science and machine learning to extract critical insights from vast volumes of data, assisting organizations in making informed decisions. The core technology behind Synspective’s operations was developed under the ImPACT program, led by The Cabinet Office of the Government of Japan, allowing them to build small SAR satellites and constellations for frequent observation of areas of interest (AOI) and enhance their ability to provide valuable services to clients.
Skygate Technologies, a space startup headquartered in Tokyo, Japan, was established in 2020. The company specializes in creating a network that facilitates the transmission of a substantial amount of data from observation satellites orbiting the Earth to the ground. This network is seamlessly integrated into the web architecture. Skygate Technologies’ mission is to enable easy access to space through the internet. Their unique advantage lies in their proficiency in both hardware and software development. One of their notable offerings is the Ground Station as a Service (GSaaS) for satellites. To develop this service, they leverage cutting-edge wireless technology and software radio. The company has secured seed investments from Keio Innovation Initiative, a venture capital firm associated with Keio University.