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I am very proud of the M-V rocket team. It is a wonderful group consisting of JAXA scientists, engineers, and manufacturers. Everyone has a good understanding not only of rockets but also of the other team members, and all are very aware of what they can do to contribute to rocket development and operation.
The way our rocket-part specialists build parts is as if they were making art pieces. There is no factory production line. When a problem occurs, the person in charge of the part makes an immediate appearance. You can truly see the faces of the engineers.
Rocket production is a long process. For example, take the development of a control system. First the manufacturer make parts, which are then repeatedly tested at the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS). But the parts that are produced as designed do not necessary work properly when tested, so the early stages of development do not usually go as smoothly as you might wish. During the development of the M-V-1 rocket, I still remember days when we worked until very late, barely catching the last train every night. Going through tough times together, we have grown into a close and brilliant team that's greater than the sum of its parts.
Rocket development derives from connections between people. This is what I learned from my graduate school professor, Dr. Ryojiro Akiba. He was once the director of ISAS, before the JAXA merger, and is currently developing a new rocket in Hokkaido. When I was writing my doctoral thesis, he told me that engineering was about human relations. To be honest, I was not really sure what he meant. Now, as a project manager, seeing how each team member is involved in the work, I think I finally understand.
I now clearly see that success in rocket development and launches takes strong teamwork. So I do not think that just giving instructions is a good approach when you want something done. I would like to respect the person's motivation for his or her involvement in the project, as they are here because of their passion for rockets. When I hear one of my teammates say, "M-V rockets are my life!" I'm too happy to sleep that night. Even when it is not said, I know that everyone shares this attitude and is working together towards successful launches.
Our team, which has developed world-class rockets, is my pride and joy. I very much look forward to continuing to work with them.
JAXA is looking forward to developing the next generation of solid-propellant rockets. The production of all-stage solid rockets will continue, but we will look for ways to reduce costs while maintaining performance. Cost reduction will apply not only to rocket production but also to all personnel expenses, including testing and launching. Although M-V rockets use solid fuel while H-IIA rockets are liquid-fuel rockets, there are many commonalities, such as the propulsion and on-board communication systems. So I would like to see collaboration on a technological level. For example, an H-IIA rocket is equipped with Solid Rocket Boosters (SRB-A), which, logically, are close to M-V rockets. As such, there will be a number of collaborations in the field of solid motors.
As a child, I was very fond of rockets and robots, and my dream to become a scientist has come true. It was fortunate that the development of M-V rockets started the year that I started work as an assistant at ISAS. In the 16 years since then, my entire research life has been spent with M-V rockets. As a result, of course, I have special affection for them, and I even have an attachment to each of their components.
From now on, I would like to maintain or further develop our existing technologies to launch missions to more distant corners of the universe, such as Jupiter. At the same time, I have a dream to build a rocket that people feel comfortable to travel in, like an airplane or an automobile. That's where I hope my research will take me.