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PD AeroSpace rocket plane
PD AeroSpace has teamed up with H.I.S. and ANA Holdings. (PD AeroSpace Ltd. / Koike Terumasa Design and Aerospace)

PD Aerospace, a Japanese company that’s similar to Virgin Galactic in its commercial spaceflight aspirations, has picked up two high-profile investors: ANA Holdings and the H.I.S. travel agency.

In a joint statement issued Thursday, the three Japanese companies said that they agreed in October to work together on space commercialization efforts, including space travel.

H.I.S. is investing about $264,000 (30 million yen) for a 10.3 percent share of the venture. ANA Holdings, the umbrella company for the ANA (All Nippon Airways) airline, is putting in about $180,000 (20.4 million yen) for a 7 percent share.

The combined amount of investment wouldn’t be enough to buy two tickets on Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo rocket plane, which is currently undergoing flight tests at California’s Mojave Air and Space Port.

PD Aerospace was founded in 2007 but hasn’t made much headway to date. The current plan calls for developing a hybrid rocket-jet craft that could take as many as eight people on suborbital space trips. The company wants to start commercial operations by the end of 2023.

“We need bigger investments in the future,” Bloomberg News quoted the company’s president, Shuji Ogawa, as saying during a Tokyo news conference. He acknowledged that the spacecraft development effort was “taking longer than planned because we didn’t have the funds.”

This week’s statement said ANA would provide aerospace expertise, while H.I.S. would focus on the tourism side of the operation.

Virgin Galactic experienced a grave setback in 2014 when its first SpaceShipTwo rocket plane broke up during a rocket-powered test flight, killing the co-pilot and injuring the pilot. The second SpaceShipTwo, dubbed VSS Unity, hasn’t yet gotten to the stage of rocket-powered tests. About 700 customers have put down as much as $250,000 each for reservations.

Meanwhile, Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos’ rocket venture, Blue Origin, has sent its New Shepard suborbital rocket ship into space five times successfully. If the program continues to go well, test astronauts could climb aboard next year, and commercial flights could begin in 2018. Blue Origin, which is headquartered in Kent, Wash., hasn’t set a ticket price and isn’t taking reservations yet.

In September, the China Academy of Launch Vehicle of Technology said it was working on a hybrid suborbital space plane that could carry up to 20 passengers.

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