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Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency

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Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency
Owner  Japan
Established October 1, 2003
(Successor agency to NASDA 1969-2003, ISAS 1981–2003 and NAL 1955–2003)
Headquarters Chōfu, Tokyo
Primary spaceport Tanegashima Space Center
Motto One JAXA
Administrator Keiji Tachikawa
Budget ¥225 (USD 2.15) billion (FY2005)[1]
Website www.jaxa.jp

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (独立行政法人宇宙航空研究開発機構 Dokuritsu-gyōsei-hōjin Uchū Kōkū Kenkyū Kaihatsu Kikō, lit. "Independent Administration on the Exploration and Aviation of Space Study and Development Organization"), or JAXA, is Japan's national aerospace agency. JAXA was formed on October 1, 2003, as an Independent Administrative Institution through the merger of three previously independent organizations. JAXA is responsible for research, development and launch of satellites into orbit, and is fundamentally involved in many missions such as asteroid exploration and a possible human mission to the Moon. Its motto is One JAXA and corporate message is Reaching for the skies, exploring space.


JAXA Kibo, the largest module for the ISS
JAXA Kibo, the largest module for the ISS

On October 1, 2003, three organizations were merged to form the new JAXA: Japan's Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (or ISAS), the National Aerospace Laboratory of Japan (NAL), and Japan's National Space Development Agency (NASDA).

Before the merger, ISAS was responsible for space and planetary research, while NAL was focused on aviation research. NASDA, which was founded on October 1, 1969, had developed rockets, satellites, and also built the Japanese Experiment Module, of which two of three sections have been added to the International Space Station. The old NASDA headquarters were located at the current site of the Tanegashima Space Center, on Tanegashima Island, 115 kilometers south of Kyūshū. NASDA also trained Japanese astronauts, who flew with the US Space Shuttles.


JAXA uses the H-IIA (H "two" A) rocket from the former NASDA body to launch engineering test satellites, weather satellites, etc. For science missions like X-ray astronomy, JAXA has been using the M-V ("Mu-five") solid-fueled rocket from the former ISAS. Additionally, JAXA is developing together with IHI, United Launch Alliance, and Galaxy Express Corporation (GALEX), the GX rocket. The GX will be the first rocket world wide to use liquefied natural gas (LNG) as the propellant. For experiments in the upper atmosphere JAXA uses the SS-520, S-520, and S-310 sounding rockets.

Success so far

Prior to the establishment of JAXA, ISAS had been most successful in its space program in the field of X-ray astronomy during the 1980s and 90s. Another successful area for Japan has been Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI) with the HALCA mission. Additional success was achieved with solar observation and research of the magnetosphere, among other areas.

NASDA was mostly active in the field of communication satellite technology. However, since the satellite market of Japan is completely open, the first time a Japanese company won a contract for a civilian communication satellite was only in 2005. Another prime focus of the NASDA body is Earth climate observation.

JAXA was awarded the Space Foundation's John L. "Jack" Swigert, Jr., Award for Space Exploration in 2008.

Launch development and missions


Rocket History

Japan launched its first satellite Ōsumi in 1970 with the L-4S rocket by ISAS. Unlike solid fueled rockets, Japan chose a much slower path with liquid fueled rocket technology. In the beginning NASDA used American models in license. The first model developed in Japan was the H-II introduced in 1994. However at the end of the 90s with two H-II launch failures, Japanese rocket technology came under criticism.

Early H-IIA missions

Japan's first space mission under JAXA, an H-IIA rocket launch on November 29, 2003, ended in failure due to stress problems. After a 15 month hiatus, JAXA performed a successful launch of an H-IIA rocket from Tanegashima Space Center, placing a satellite into orbit on February 26, 2005.

Lunar and Interplanetary Missions

Japan's first missions beyond Earth orbit were the 1985 Halley comet observation satellites Suisei and Sakigake. To prepare for future mission, ISAS tested Earth swing by orbits with the Hiten mission in 1990. The first Japanese interplanetary mission was the Mars Orbiter Nozomi (Planet-B), which was launched in 1998. It reached its target in 2003, but orbit injection had to be given up. Currently interplanetary missions remain at the ISAS group under the JAXA umbrella. However for FY 2008 JAXA is planning to set up an independent working group within the organization. New head for this group will be Hayabusa project manager Kawaguchi. [1] Active Mission: Hayabusa, SELENE, Under Development: Planet-C, BepiColombo, Hayabusa 2?

Small Body Exploration: Hayabusa mission


On May 9, 2003, Hayabusa (meaning, Peregrine falcon), was launched from an M-V rocket. The goal of this mission is to collect samples from a small near-Earth asteroid named 25143 Itokawa. The craft was scheduled to rendezvous in November 2005, and return to Earth with samples from the asteroid by July 2007. It was confirmed that the spacecraft successfully landed on the asteroid on November 20, 2005, after some initial confusion regarding the incoming data. On November 26, 2005, Hayabusa succeeded in making a soft contact, but whether it gathered the samples or not is unknown. Hayabusa is slated to return to earth in 2010.

For details see Hayabusa, Hayabusa 2

Solar sail research

On August 9, 2004, ISAS successfully deployed two prototype solar sails from a sounding rocket. A clover type sail was deployed at 122 km altitude and a fan type sail was deployed at 169 km altitude. Both sails used 7.5 micrometer thick film.

ISAS tested a solar sail again as a sub payload to the Astro-F (Akari) mission on February 22, 2006. However the solar sail did not deploy fully. ISAS tested a solar sail again as a sub payload of the Solar-B launch at September 23 2006, but contact with the probe was lost. The goal is to have a solar sail mission to Jupiter after 2010.

Lunar Explorations

After Hiten in 1990, ISAS planned a lunar exploration mission LUNAR-A but after delays due to technical problems, the project was terminated in January 2007. The seismometer penetrator design for Lunar-A may be reused in future mission.

On September 14, 2007, JAXA succeeded in launching lunar orbit explorer "Kaguya", also known as SELENE (costing 55 billion yen including launch vehicle), the largest such mission since the Apollo program, on an H-2A rocket. Its mission is to gather data on the moon's origin and evolution. It entered into a lunar orbit on October 4, 2007.

Astronomy Program

The first Japanese astronomy mission was x-ray satellite Hakucho (Corsa-B), which was launched in 1979. Later ISAS moved into solar observation, radio astronomy through Space VLBI and infrared astronomy. Active Mission: Suzaku, Akari, Hinode Under Development: ASTRO-G, ASTRO-H

Infrared astronomy

Akari (Astro-F)
Akari (Astro-F)


Japan's first infrared astronomy mission was the 15 cm IRTS telescope which was part of the SFU multipurpose satellite in 1995. IRTS scanned during its one month lifetime around 7% of the sky before SFU got brought back to Earth by the Space Shuttle. During the 1990s JAXA also gave ground support for the ESA Infrared Space Observatory (ISO) infrared mission.

The next step for JAXA was the Akari spacecraft, with the pre-launch designation ASTRO-F. This satellite was launched on 21 February 2006. Its mission is infrared astronomy with a 68 cm telescope. This is the first all sky survey since the first infrared mission IRAS in 1983. (A 3.6 kg nanosatellite named CUTE-1.7 was also released from the same launch vehicle.) [2]

JAXA is also doing further R&D for increasing the performance of its mechanical coolers for its future infrared mission SPICA. This would enable a warm launch without liquid helium. SPICA has the same size as the ESA Herschel Space Observatory mission, but is planned with a temperature of just 4.5 K to be much colder. The launch is planned for the year 2015, however the mission is not yet fully funded. Also ESA and NASA might contribute an instrument each. [3]

For details see Akari, IRTS.

X-ray astronomy

Starting from 1979 with Hakucho (CORSA-B), Japan achieved for nearly 20 years continuous observation with its Hinotori, Tenma, Ginga and Asuka (ASTRO-A to D) x-ray observation satellites. However in the year 2000 the launch of Japan's fifth x-ray observation satellite ASTRO-E failed (as it failed at launch it never received a proper name). Then on July 10, 2005, JAXA was finally able to launch a new X-ray astronomy mission named Suzaku (ASTRO-E II). This launch was important for JAXA, because in the five years since the launch failure of the original ASTRO-E satellite, Japan was without an x-ray telescope. Three instruments were included in this satellite: an X-ray spectrometer (XRS), an X-ray imaging spectrometer (XIS), and a hard X-ray detector (HXD). However, the XRS was rendered inoperable due to a malfunction which caused the satellite to lose its supply of liquid helium.
The next planned x-ray mission is the MAXI all-sky X-ray scanner. It will continuously monitors astronomical X-ray objects over a broad energy band (0.5 to 30 keV). MAXI will be installed on the Japanese external module of the ISS. [4] After this mission JAXA plans to launch ASTRO-H, also known under the name NeXT, in the summer of 2013.

For details see ASTRO-E II (Suzaku). ASTRO-H

Solar astronomy

Japan's solar astronomy started in the early 80s with the launch of the Hinotori (ASTRO-A) x-ray mission. The Hinode (SOLAR-B) spacecraft, the follow-on to the Japan/US/UK Yohkoh (SOLAR-A) spacecraft, was launched on 23 September 2006. [5] [6] A SOLAR-C can be expected sometime after 2010. However no details are worked out yet other than it will not be launched with the former ISASs Mu rockets. Instead H-2A from Tanegashima could launch it. As H-2A is more powerful SOLAR-C could either be heavier or be stationed at L1 (Lagrange point 1).

For details see Hinode.

Radio Astronomy

In 1998 Japan launched the HALCA (Muses-B) Mission, the world first spacecraft dedicated to create SPACE VLBI observations of Pulsars among others. To do so, ISAS set up a ground network around the world through international cooperation. The observation part of the mission lasted until 2003 and the satellite was retired at the end of 2005. In FY 2006 Japan funded the ASTRO-G as the succeeding mission. Launch is planned for FY 2012.

For details see:


Technology Tests

One of the primary duties of the former NASDA body was the testing of new space technologies, mostly in the field of communication. The first test satellite was ETS-I,launched in 1975. However during the 1990s NASDA was hit by bad luck with the problems surrounding the ETS-VI and COMETS missions. Nevertheless testing of communication technologies remains as one of the Jaxas key duties in cooperation with NICT. Active Mission: ETS-VIII, WINDS,OICETS, Index Under Development: QZSS-1


To upgrade Japans communication technology the Japanese state launched the i-Space initiative with the ETS-VIII and WINDS missions.[7]

ETS-VIII was launched on December 18 2006. The purpose of ETS-VIII is to test communication equipment with two very large antennas and an atomic clock test. On December 26 both antennas were successfully deployed. This didn´t come unexpected, since JAXA tested the deployment mechanism before with the LDREX-2 Mission, which was launched on October 14 with the European Ariane 5. The test was successful. The mission of WINDS is to create the worlds fastest satellite internet connection. WINDS was launched in February 2008.

For details see ETS-VIII, WINDS


On August 24, 2005, JAXA launched the experimental satellites OICETS and INDEX with the Dnepr rocket. OICETS mission is to test optical links with the European Space Agency (ESA) satellite ARTEMIS, which is around 40,000 km away from OICETS. The experiment was successful on December 9, when the link could be established. In March 2006 Jaxa could establish with OICETS the worldwide first optical links between a LEO satellite and a ground station first in Japan and in June 2006 with a mobile station in Germany.

For details see OICETS

INDEX is a small 70 kg satellite for testing various equipment and for a small aurora observation mission. The satellite is currently in the extended mission phase.

For details see INDEX

Earth Observation Programme

Japan's first Earth observation satellites were MOS-1a and MOS-1b launched in 1987 and 1990. During the 1990s and the new millennium this programme came under heavy fire, because both Adeos (Midori) and Adeos 2 (Midori 2) satellites failed after just 10 months in orbit.
Active Mission: ALOS Under Development: GOSAT, GCOM-W, GCOM-C, ALOS 2 SAR



In January 2006, JAXA successfully launched the Advanced Land Observation Satellite (ALOS/Daichi). Communication between ALOS and the ground station in Japan will be done through the Kodama Data Relay Satellite, which was launched during 2002. This project is under intense pressure due to the shorter than expected life time of the ADEOS II (Midori) Earth Observation Mission. For the following on mission JAXA plans to split the mission into a radar satellite and an optical satellite. ALOS 2 SAR is currently planned for the winter of FY 2012.

Rainfall Observation

Since Japan is an island nation and gets struck by typhoons every year, research about the dynamics of the atmospheric is a very important issue. For this reason Japan launched in 1997 the TRMM mission in cooperation with NASA, to observe the tropical rainfall seasons. JAXA and NASA are planning a successor to the TRMM mission. However because of NASA budget problems the launch date of the GPM project got pushed back to the year 2013. For further research NASDA although launched the ADEOS and ADEOS II missions in 1996 and 2003. However due to various reasons both satellites had a much shorter than expected life term.

Monitoring of carbon dioxide

At the end of FY 2008 JAXA launched the satellite GOSAT (Greenhouse Gas Observing SATellite) to help scientists determine and monitor the density distribution of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The satellite is being jointly developed by JAXA and Japan's Ministry of the Environment. JAXA is building the satellite while the Ministry is in charge of the data that will be collected. Since the number of ground-based carbon dioxide observatories cannot monitor enough of the world's atmosphere and are distributed unevenly throughout the globe, the GOSAT may be able to gather more accurate data and fill in the gaps on the globe where there are no observatories on the ground. Sensors for methane and other greenhouse gasses are also being considered for the satellite, although the plans are not yet finalized. The satellite weighs approximately 1650 kg and is expected to have a life span of 5 years.

GCOM series

Next funded earth observation mission after GOSAT is the GCOM earth observation programme as a successor to ADEOS II (Midori) and the Aqua mission. To reduce the risk and for a longer observation time the mission will be split into smaller satellites. Altogether GCOM will be a series of six satellites. First launch, GCOM-W is scheduled for February 2012 with the H-IIA. Second launch GCOM-C is currently planned for February 2014.


Satellites for other agencies

For weather observation Japan launched on February 2005 the Multi-Functional Transport Satellite 1R (MTSAT-1R). The success of this launch was critical for Japan, since the original MTSAT-1 couldn't be put into orbit because of a launch failure with the H-2 rocket in 1999. Since then Japan relied for weather forecasting on an old satellite which was already beyond its useful life term and on American systems. On February 18, 2006, JAXA, as head of the H-IIA at this time, successfully launched the MTSAT-2 aboard a H-2A rocket. MTSAT-2 is the backup to the MTSAT-1R. The MTSAT-2 uses the DS-2000 satellite bus developed by Mitsubishi Electric. The DS-2000 is also used for the DRTS Kodama, ETS-VIII and the Superbird 7 communication satellite, making it the first commercial success for Japan.

As a secondary mission both the MTSAT-1R and MTSAT-2 help to direct air traffic.

Other JAXA satellites currently in use

  • Exos-D (Akebono) Aurora Observation, since 1989.
  • GEOTAIL magnetosphere observation satellite (since 1992)
  • DRTS (Kodama) Data Relay Satellite, since 2002. (Projected Life Span is 7 years)

On going joint missions with NASA are the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM), the Aqua Earth Observation Satellite.

Finished Missions

  • SELENE, Moon probe 2007-2009 (retired)
  • Micro Lab Sat 1, Small engineering mission, launch 2002. (retired 27 September 2006)
  • HALCA, Space VLBI 1997-2005 (retired)
  • Nozomi, Mars Mission 1998-2003 (failed)
  • MDS-1, Technology Demonstration 2002-2003 (retired)
  • ADEOS 2, (Midori 2) Earth Observation 2002-2003 (lost)

Future missions

As JAXA shifted away from international efforts beginning in 2005, plans are developing for independent space missions, such as a proposed manned mission to the moon.

2009 and beyond

On February 23, 2008 JAXA launched the Wideband InterNetworking engineering test and Demonstration Satellite (WINDS), also called "KIZUNA." WINDS will facilitate experiments with faster internet connections. The launch, using H-IIA launch vehicle 14, took place from the Tanegashima Space Center.

JAXA plans to field its new H-IIB rocket in 2009.

Another project is the Global Precipitation Measurement/Dual-frequency Precipitation Radar (GPM/DPR) which is a joint development with NASA. This mission is the successor to the highly successful TRMM mission. JAXA will develop the radar and provide the launch vehicle. Other countries/agencies like China, India, ESA etc. will provide the subsatellites. The aim of this mission is to measure global rainfall. However because of NASA budget limitations this project was pushed back to 2010.

In the year 2009 JAXA plans to launch the first satellite of the Quasi Zenith Satellite System (QZSS), a subsystem of the global positioning system (GPS). Two others are expected to follow later. If successful, one satellite will be in a zenith position over Japan full time. The QZSS mission is the last scheduled major independent mission for JAXA, as no major civilian projects were funded after that for now. The only exception is the IGS programme which will be continued beyond 2008. However it seems Japan is pressing forward now with the GCOM earth observation satellites as successors to the ADEOS missions. First launch is planned for 2010. In 2009 Japan also plans to launch a new version of the IGS with an improved resolution of 60 cm.

Launch schedule

First launch of the H-IIB and the HTV is September 1, 2009. After the first flight one HTV launch is planned during each FY until 2015. (If not mentioned otherwise launch vehicle for the following missions is the H-IIA.)
- FY 2010 -

- FY 2011 -

  • GCOM-W, Climate Observation satellite, launch: Feb, 2012

- FY 2012 -

  • ALOS 2 SAR, Earth Observation satellite, launch: Winter 2012
  • ASTRO-G (VSOP-2) successor to the Halca mission, launch: Summer 2012
  • TOPS Telescope Observatory for Planets on Small-satellite launch Feb, 2012 (First launch of the new Advanced Solid Rocket, the successor to the M-V.

- FY 2013 -

  • GPM, successor to the TRMM joint NASA mission
  • BepiColombo, joint ESA mission to Mercury, launch: 2013 (LV: Ariane 5)
  • ASTRO-H x-ray observatory, launch: summer 2013.
  • GCOM-C, Climate Observation satellite, launch: Feb, 2014

- Other missions -
For the 2012 ESA EarthCare mission, JAXA will provide the radar system on the satellite. JAXA is also providing the Light Particle Telescope(LPT) for the 2008 Jason 2 satellite by the French CNES. JAXA will provide the Auroral Electron Sensor (AES) for the Taiwanese FORMOSAT-5.[8]

  • SmartSat-1, small communication test and sun corona observation, Mission status unclear
  • XEUS joint X-Ray telescope with ESA, launch after 2015.
  • Sohla-2 Small PETSAT Demonstration Satellite

New orientation of JAXA

Developing a space science mission like ASTRO-E can take up to 7 years and longer. The problem is, for gaining knowledge in astronomy it is necessary to study cosmic "special events." However because of the long development period of bigger space science mission, there can be long bleak periods in observation, missing opportunities. To prevent this JAXA is planning to use more small scale missions starting from 2010, too. For launching these smaller missions JAXA is also planning to develop a new solid fueled rocket to replace the M-V.

Developing Projects

Future plans

  • ALOS 2, earth observation
  • SPICA, a 3,5 meter infrared telescope to be placed at L2
  • JASMINE, infrared telescope for measuring the universe
  • DIOS, small scale x-ray observation

Human Space Program

Japan has not yet developed its own manned spacecraft and is not currently developing one. Sometime ago an unmanned space shuttle HOPE-Xproject launched by conventional space launcher H-II was developed for several years but was postponed. Then the simpler manned capsule Fuji was proposed but not adopted. Projects of single-stage to orbit, reusable launch vehicle horisontal takeoff and landing ASSTS and vertical takeoff and landing Kankoh-maru also exist but have not been adopted .

The first Japanese citizen to fly in space was Toyohiro Akiyama, a journalist sponsored by TBS, who flew on the Soviet Soyuz TM-11 in December 1990. He spent more than seven days in space on the Mir Space station, in what the Soviets called their first commercial spaceflight which allowed them to earn $14 million. The first professional Japanese astronaut was Mamoru Mohri, a NASDA astronaut who flew his first space mission aboard the STS-47 mission in 1992.

Under a new plan, JAXA has set a goal of constructing a manned lunar base in 2030. Astronauts would be sent to the Moon by beyond 2020 which is approximately the same time as Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) manned lunar mission beyond 2020, China National Space Administration (CNSA) manned lunar mission in 2030 and NASA's Project Constellation plans to return to the Moon in 2019 with its Orion-Altair project) so that they will start construction of the base to be completed by 2030.

Before this Moon goals JAXA intends to develop the manned spacecraft launched by space launcher H-IIB [9]

Supersonic aircraft development

Besides the H-IIA and M-5 rockets, JAXA is also developing technology for a next-generation supersonic transport that could become the commercial replacement for the Concorde. The design goal of the project (working name NEXST) is to develop a jet that can carry 300 passengers at Mach 2. A subscale model of the jet underwent aerodynamic testing in September and October 2005 in Australia. [10] The economic success of such a project is still unclear, and as a consequence the project has been met with limited interest from Japanese aerospace companies like Mitsubishi Heavy Industries so far.

Reusable Launch Vehicles

Until 2003 JAXA (ISAS) conducted research on a reusable launch vehicle under the Reusable Vehicle Testing (RVT) project.

Research centers and offices

JAXA has research centers in many locations in Japan, and some offices overseas. Its headquarters are in Chōfu, Tokyo. It also has

Other space agencies in Japan

Not included into the JAXA organization is the Institute for unmanned space experiment free flyer (USEF), Japan´s other space agency.

See also

External links

These three links are archived sites of the JAXA predecessor agencies:

Text from Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License; additional terms may apply.

Published in July 2009.

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