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A Focal Point for Space Development Yasuhiro Kawada Director, JAXA Tsukuba Space Center

The Tsukuba Space Center (TKSC) was established in Tsukuba Science City in 1972, and since then has become the hub of Japan's space program. The TKSC conducts research-and-development and testing of cutting-edge satellite technology, human/space environment applications and space transportation systems. The center is also dedicated to bringing its work to the public through site tours and an exhibition hall.

Playing a pivotal role in Japan’s space program

Q. Could you give us a profile of the TKSC?

Tsukuba Space Center
Tsukuba Space Center The TKSC is full of greenery
The TKSC is full of greenery

The TKSC opened its doors in 1972 as part of the former National Space Development Agency of Japan. Initially, the main work conducted there was R&D for satellites and launch vehicles, as well as satellite operations. Today, the center’s responsibilities also include human space activity, such as the operation of the Japanese Experiment Module KIBO on the International Space Station (ISS), and astronaut training. In addition, we conduct R&D for key cutting-edge space technologies. With comprehensive involvement in the promotion of space development, the TKSC serves as the central hub of Japan’s space program.

Related Link: Tsukuba Space Center (TKSC) Q. What makes the TKSC unique? The TKSC is special in that it integrates three different specialties - satellites, launch vehicles and human space activity - so we can work very efficiently at one site. Also, the center is located in Tsukuba Science City, which is home to more than 300 top domestic research institutions, so it is easier to keep in touch with them, too.
Q. How would you like to contribute to everyday life through the TKSC? Today, satellites, which are a big part of the TKSC’s work, are an essential part of daily life. They are used in communications, weather forecasting, Earth observation and GPS. We would like to keep launching missions that are relevant to daily life, and to continue demonstrating new technology. In addition, human space activities, such as KIBO and the space-based experiments performed in it, can expand our knowledge in materials science and biomedicine, for example. It is also important to continue developing launch vehicles, in order to keep autonomous Japanese space activity. We would also like to continue to report to the public the information about space including the above things, in order to gain its understanding and support.

Improving reliability using advanced facilities

Q. What kind of facilities do you have at the TKSC?

Vacuum chamber that simulates the environment of space
Vacuum chamber that simulates the environment of spaceLarge water tank that simulates the weightless environment of space
Large water tank that simulates the weightless environment of space

For satellite development, the main one is environmental resistance test facilities, which can simulate rocket launches and the space environment. One of them is used to test the endurance of satellites against vibration generated during rocket launch, and another is in the vacuum environment and harsh conditions in space. These facilities have been used to test not only satellites but also the Japanese Experiment Module KIBO and KOUNOTORI, the cargo transporter to the ISS, and have helped us enhance the reliability of their onboard instruments. We also have facilities for tracking and controlling satellites and for analyzing the data they acquire.
As far as human space missions go, we have a training facility for astronauts that includes the operation of KIBO’s robotic arm, and a control center for operating KIBO and KOUNOTORI in orbit. In the KIBO Flight Control Room, sixty people work around the clock, communicating with JAXA astronaut Satoshi Furukawa during his current long-duration mission on the ISS. Q. I’ve heard that these test facilities can also be rented to the private sector and research institutions. There is demand for the use of JAXA’s facilities because such large test facilities, which enable you to implement a variety of tests, aren’t many in Japan. We are pleased that these facilities are used by private businesses, universities and research institutions, because this can contribute to advancing Japanese technology. If you use our facilities, please contact JAXA Industrial Collaboration and Coordination Center.

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