JAXA President Monthly Regular Press Conference December 2015

JAXA President Monthly Regular Press Conference

Date and time: From 11:00 - 11:25 a.m. on Dec. 17 (Thu.), 2015
Venue: JAXA Tokyo Office Presentation Room (B1 floor)
MC: Shigeki Kamigaichi, JAXA Public Affairs Department Director

It’s already the year end, and I can summarize that 2015 was a very busy year for JAXA. The new Basic Plan on Space Policy was issued in January, then our organization status was politically changed to a national research and development agency in April, thus we have been coping with those changes. Concerning projects, as we have already announced, the H3 Launch Vehicle project started in full scale. Recently, we have been promoting and implementing various projects that link to commercialization, including upgraded technology verification, and we were fortunately able to achieve their preliminary objectives in 2015. In that sense, this year was very busy but fulfilled. I would like to express my gratitude not only to members of the projects, but also to all JAXA employees who support those projects in the background.

The Venus Climate orbiter “AKATSUKI” was inserted into the orbit circling around Venus. Although it took five years, Japan was able to inject a satellite into the orbit of a planet other than the Earth for the first time. It was a very big step in the field of space exploration. The AKATSUKI is now undergoing function verification for onboard observation instruments. Each function is being checked, and, so far, the health of four cameras with high resolution performance is confirmed to be maintained. As we have previously announced, we plan to start full-scale observations in April 2016.

The Asteroid Explorer “Hayabusa2” is flying to the asteroid “Ryugu” on its scheduled orbit as we have informed you.

The closest important event was Astronaut Yui’s recent return to Earth after completing his expedition mission of about five months at the International Space Station (ISS), as we have already reported. He is currently under rehabilitation in Houston, U.S. Astronaut Yui actively dispatched information very often from the ISS through Twitter, thus I feel that he also played and satisfied his role as a “reporter in space”. We will have a press interview next Monday by connecting to Houston. Please join us. He is scheduled to come back to Japan in February 2016 after completing his rehabilitation, so we are planning to hold a mission debriefing session in some regions in Japan.
Following Astronaut Yui, Astronauts Onishi and Kani will participate in expedition missions at the ISS in June 2016 and in November 2017, respectively. We are working hard to support them as well as other coming Japanese astronauts to enable them to attain further achievements based on what have been done by Astronaut Yui.

The 22nd Asia-Pacific Regional Space Agency Forum (APRSAF-22) was held in Indonesia between Dec. 1 (Tue.) and 4 (Fri.) The APRSAF is hosted by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, Japan , and JAXA, and each member country holds an annual meeting in turn. This year, Indonesia’s Ministry of Research, Technology and Higher Education of Indonesia (RISTEK-DIKTI) and National Institute of Aeronautics and Space (LAPAN) jointly held the meeting. About 480 participants from 28 countries and regions and 10 international organizations gathered there for the presentation and thorough discussions. One of the notable discussion topics is the issue of “space and ocean” as a special feature presented by Indonesia. The host country is a major maritime nation that is said to consist of about 17,000 islands. The total length of shorelines of the Indonesian islands is over 80,000 kilometers, which is about the twice the length of the equator. It was actually my first time to learn that Indonesia was such a maritime nation, and the country faces various challenges of marine migrations, shipping navigation information and other marine-related issues. Therefore, they presented their expectations that satellite observations from space may be useful for their challenges, and I thought it was a very unique and interesting presentation. Another feature of the Forum this time was that we can clearly see more and more people from countries and regions other than Asia participating in the APRSAF to study the status quo of Asian space development and to incorporate that into their activities. In other words, the Asian region will play a more important role in the space field in various senses. We also want to strengthen our space activity. The APRSAF will be held in the Philippines next year.

A commercial mission was successfully launched by the H-IIA Launch Vehicle No. 29, as we have reported. I understand that, with this success, JAXA’s space activities are now entering a new area of supporting commercial launches by taking one step forward from our conventional field of science and technology, thus it was a significant launch in the sense that we added a new page in JAXA’s history. The successor launch vehicle, the H3, which is under development, aims at entering the commercial launch market from the beginning of its operation, and the upgraded technology verified by the H-IIA F29 will also be incorporated in the H3.
Concerning a rocket launch, we will launch the H-IIA F30 on Feb. 12 (Fri.) The payload will be the X-ray Astronomy Satellite “ASTRO-H.” Preparations are going well.

At the COP 21 in Paris in December, JAXA and JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency) jointly made a presentation on a system that can detect changes in forests. I previously talked about our detection of illegal deforestation in Brazil, and the idea presented this time is to do a similar activity in other countries and regions that possess rich tropical rainforests. Forests play an important role of absorbing CO2; however, how much of overall forests have been lost due to deforestation is difficult to understand. To contribute to solving this challenge, we are studying the possibility of using our land observation satellite “DAICHI-2”.

A group of male leaders who will create “A Society in which Women Shine” supported by the Gender Equality Bureau, Cabinet Office, issued the “Declaration on Action”. As I read it, approved its purpose, and agreed with the action, I am now a member of this group of male leaders. In the Declaration of Action, there are many meaningful keywords, and especially the idea of “Taking actions and sending messages ourselves”, “Disrupting the status quo”, and “Developing networking” are useful phrases not only for gender equality activities but also for improving productivity and efficiency in various working environments. I hope many women can play active roles in such work places, and that is why I agreed to the Declaration and joined the group.

On Dec. 12 (Sat.) the Kakuda Space Center (KSPC) celebrated its 50th anniversary. The KSPC is equipped with an imperative R&D function for launch vehicle development. The center has made significant achievements and tremendous contributions to developing rocket engines currently in use. Moreover, the center will be used for the H3 Launch Vehicle development, especially its turbo pump will be tested at the KSPC. We will keep utilizing the KSPC facility for the future development. The center is also strongly supported by local residents, thus we signed a collaboration agreement with them on this occasion to further strengthen cooperation with them. Former Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain of the European Space Agency also participated in the ceremony, and as I happened to carry out research with him about 30 years ago at the KSPC, we lively talked about old tales.