Why Is Rocket Development Necessary in Japan?
 
 
Kiyoshi Higuchi
Executive Director, 
Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency

The Significance of Space Development

Since the launch of the first artificial satellite almost fifty years ago, the utilization of space has become indispensable for life on Earth. Satellites now play a crucial role in maintaining our way of life. They are used in weather forecasting (like, for example, the meteorological satellite Himawari), monitoring natural disasters and the global environment, communications, broadcasting, etc. And of course, space science has another purpose as well: it is an integral part of our search for the origins of life on Earth - a search that is essential to guaranteeing a prosperous future for humanity. In other words, we cannot function today without satellites. Although scientists have studied many different means of launching satellites into orbit, rockets remain the most reliable method. Hence, rocket research is an important part of space development.


If Japan Did Not Have Rockets

What would become of Japan without rockets?
Since no other transportation method is available, if Japan wanted to transport something into space, we would have no choice but to use a foreign country's rocket and launch facilities. Since a rocket cannot be purchased like an airplane, Japan would have to procure the launch from a foreign country.
In such a case, there would be no guarantee that the launch would be carried out in line with our request. Furthermore, we would have to take on the risks involved in transporting delicate precision hardware overseas. But most importantly, Japan would become dependent on other countries for activities that are vital to its economic health. That would compromise Japan's economic and political independence and weaken its position on the international stage.Today, nations that have hitherto relied on other countries for satellite technology and launches, are starting to do the work themselves. Brazil and South Korea, for example, are building domestic launch facilities and developing their own rockets. This trend indicates that more and more nations are becoming aware that space development needs to be a vital part of the national infrastructure, and that autonomy in this area is important.


If Japan Did Not Have Rockets

What would become of Japan without rockets?
Since no other transportation method is available, if Japan wanted to transport something into space, we would have no choice but to use a foreign country's rocket and launch facilities. Since a rocket cannot be purchased like an airplane, Japan would have to procure the launch from a foreign country.
In such a case, there would be no guarantee that the launch would be carried out in line with our request. Furthermore, we would have to take on the risks involved in transporting delicate precision hardware overseas. But most importantly, Japan would become dependent on other countries for activities that are vital to its economic health. That would compromise Japan's economic and political independence and weaken its position on the international stage.Today, nations that have hitherto relied on other countries for satellite technology and launches, are starting to do the work themselves. Brazil and South Korea, for example, are building domestic launch facilities and developing their own rockets. This trend indicates that more and more nations are becoming aware that space development needs to be a vital part of the national infrastructure, and that autonomy in this area is important.


The Ability to Build a Large-Scale System

Rocket technology is not just another element of the space program; its significance goes far beyond the ability to launch satellites. The development of rockets is a test of a country's technological capability - its ability to build large-scale systems. A rocket consists of around 300,000 parts, roughly three times the number required for an automobile. Building and operating such a large-scale system requires a corresponding standard of technological skill and the most advanced technology. Such skills and technologies can be transferred to other fields, greatly increasing a nation's overall technological advancement.
Japan upholds the "Science and Technology Oriented Nation" policy, which promotes science and technology as the basis for national economic growth. Rocket development plays an important role in maintaining and improving advanced science and technology.

In recent years, research in the life sciences and nanotechnology has been growing in importance both around the world and in Japan. This, I think, indicates that we believe these fields will be important to us in the future. Therefore, to guarantee Japan's self-reliance, we need to build up our know-how and technological capabilities in these fields without depending on other countries. In the near future, space may become even more important for our wellbeing, and also become an even more lively place of activity. To make autonomous space activities possible, Japan needs to have its own rockets, and it is extremely important to conduct research and development for this purpose today.

At the same time, we are actively pursuing international collaboration, in the form of projects such as the International Space Station. There are many things that cannot be accomplished by one country working on its own, and when ideas are brought together through international collaboration, a better direction for space development can often be found. A country's ability to contribute to such collaborative projects is directly proportional to its technological capabilities, so the sophistication of its domestic projects and its technological strength remain important. In spite of its recent failure, the capability of Japan's H-IIA Launch Vehicle is still highly regarded around the world.
We are determined to further consolidate our rocket technology and enhance its reliability, in order to secure Japan's lifeline and to contribute to the international community.


Maximizing Reliability of the H-IIA Launch Vehicle
JAXA is working towards the resumption of rocket launches, and more reliable space development.


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