The Yomiuri ShimbunA woman operates a lunar rover, Yaoki, at an event in Ota Ward, Tokyo, in early February.

Small and midsize companies are striving to develop lunar rovers and rockets in Ota Ward, Tokyo, which was the setting for a TV drama about a small factory building domestic rocket engines and aiming for space. The firms in the manufacturing town are joining forces to realize their dream of going into space.

In February, an event was held at a conference hall in Ota Ward where participants experienced operating a 15-centimeter-long lunar rover. A camera installed inside of the small vehicle recorded and projected onto a monitor the scenes in front of the small vehicle.

“I’d love to go to the moon, but if it’s impossible, I want to operate such a lunar vehicle from Earth,” said a fifth-grade boy at the event. “I think we’ll be able to see the details of the moon’s surface thanks to the camera.”

The rover, which weighs about 500 grams, was developed by Dymon Co., a space startup based in the ward. It was named “Yaoki” after the proverb, meaning getting back up each time you get knocked down.

The Yomiuri ShimbunDymon Co. President Shinichiro Nakajima, right, with Tatsujiro Oshima of Katsuragawa Seira Co.

The rover is expected to be sent to the moon as early as within this year on a lunar lander of the U.S. space firm Intuitive Machines, the first private company in the world to have succeeded in a lunar landing. Yaoki is planned to travel the lunar surface and transmit images to Earth.

“At first, only one of our vehicles will run on the moon. But in a few years, we hope to have many running there and have many people operate them remotely,” Dymon President Shinichiro Nakajima said.

The screws used to assemble Yaoki’s wheels and other components were manufactured by Katsuragawa Seira Co., a precision parts maker in the ward, which signed a partnership agreement with Dymon in December 2022. In addition to supplying screws, it jointly conducted an experiment with Dymon to reproduce the environment of the moon surface, which has a low gravitational force.

Although mainly producing screws for automotive parts, the company aims to concentrate space-related factories to the ward. An executive of Katsuragawa Seira said that they want such manufacturers to use the rental factories it operates.

Test success

Courtesy of Innovative Space Carrier Inc.A combustion test of a rocket engine is conducted by Innovative Space Carrier Inc. in Taiki, Hokkaido, in December last year.

Innovative Space Carrier Inc., a space startup in Chuo Ward, began developing a rocket last October at a warehouse rented from an electronics firm in Ota Ward. The company chose the ward as its operational base because of the concentration of precision machinery manufacturers nearby and accessibility from its head office in Nihombashi.

The company made experimental equipment at the warehouse and successfully conducted a combustion test of a rocket engine in Taiki, Hokkaido, in December last year. The firm plans to repeat experiments in the future and aims to realize space travel in the 2030s.

In September last year, the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry decided to provide assistance to four private-sector rocket developers. Innovative Space Carrier will be granted up to ¥2 billion in funds.

“The cooperation of small and midsize companies with technological capabilities is essential for building rockets. We’d like to find companies that will work together with us in Ota Ward,” said CEO Kojiro Hatada.

Industry with a future

The manufacturing industry in Ota Ward is struggling. While the ward had 9,177 manufacturers in 1983, the number dropped to 3,584 in 2021. Yet, the space sector is expected to grow in the future. According to the basic plan for space policy decided by the Cabinet Office in June last year, the government aims to double the sector’s market size from ¥4 trillion in 2020 to ¥8 trillion in the early 2030s.

“The space sector is certain to grow as an industry,” said Nobutaka Komatsu, an expert on the space industry. “The more companies with advanced technological capabilities gather and cooperate with each other, the more likely they are to succeed.”



are you a developer?

  • Proven International Track Record
  • Vertically Integrated Federal Funds
  • Vertically Integrated Tax Credits
  • Vertically Integrated Investors
  • Vertically Integrated Lenders
  • Vertically Integrated Contractors