JAXA President Monthly Regular Press Conference March 2015

JAXA President Monthly Regular Press Conference

Date and time: From 11:00 - 12:00 a.m. on March 19 (Thu.), 2015
Venue: JAXA Tokyo Office Presentation Room (B1 floor)
MC: Shigeki Kamigaichi, JAXA Public Affairs Department Director

Organizational change will take place at JAXA on April 1 based on two major purposes, namely 1) to correspond to (Japan's) "policy framework" and 2) to more efficiently and effectively play the assigned role to JAXA within the framework. Let me explain more precisely. JAXA, to date, has worked as an organization to start up projects and perform them. We will play the same role as we now do, but the significant point of the change this time is that JAXA will have another big pillar of "research and development." We've already had a R&D department. In addition, we have had some other R&D functions within each directorate such as at the Space Transportation Mission Directorate and Satellite application Mission Directorate. On this occasion, we will converge those R&D functions into one and assign one vice president exclusively for R&D matters, thus our organization will become a two-layer system, one for carrying out projects and the other for R&D.
We also plan to newly establish a "Mission Planning Department" at our headquarters in conjunction with the purpose of the organization change. The department will integrate two functions namely creating a project and proposing it, as compared to our current system where we study a project in each directorate. One strong point of JAXA is that we carry out R&D both for satellites and space transportation systems. No organization, including private companies, has such a practice in Japan. We will converge and study mission planning work as one task for all of JAXA. One project involves multiple phases including project planning, budget allocation, start-up, proceeding toward launch, post-launch operation, and attaining results. The Mission Planning Dept. will be in charge of the very first phase.
In addition, as I touched upon at the beginning that one of the two purposes of the organization change is to correspond to (Japan's) "policy framework," we will become a "National Research and Development Agency" from the current Independent Administrative Agency in April. By becoming a R&D agency, we will be expected to achieve a certain level of results, and, in other words, we will be evaluated by achieved results as the National R&D Agency.
For such a body, optimizing not only our own R&D results but also all-Japan achievements is indicated as one of the important roles. I believe it is important to improve our global competitiveness through convening various strong points of Japan. In this regard, we will try to make JAXA more open to actively facilitate collaboration with other R&D agencies in different fields, and cooperation/discussion with private companies in broader areas.
All JAXA R&D fields including satellites, launch vehicles and aircrafts belong to the assembly industry sector. The most typical assembly industry is the auto industry, but the strength and major factors of JAXA's R&D results have come from other assembly industries. For example, the development of CFRP, carbon fiber reinforced plastics, was led by Japan, and it is a major strong point of Japan's spacecraft and aircraft. As you can see, CFRP was not originally developed exclusively for our fields, thus how we can take advantage of Japan's unique technologies developed for different areas and incorporate them into our spacecraft and aircraft will determine our major direction to move ahead.

Interagency meeting with NASA administrator

NASA administrator Charles Bolden visited Japan, and, taking that occasion I had a meeting with him on March 17th. We signed a Memorandum of Understanding concerning mission cooperation for the Greenhouse Gases Observing Satellite "IBUKI" (GOSAT), its successor (GOSAT-2) and the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2.) Those satellites are developed and operated under cooperation by NASA, JAXA, the Ministry of Environment, and the National Institute for Environmental Studies
I also explained JAXA's plans for the next year, and budget requests for Japan Fiscal Year 2015 to Administrator Bolden, and exchanged opinions.

Business trip to the U.S.

I visited the U.S. from March 11-15, and watched the launch of the Magnetopheric Multiscale mission (MMS) by the Atlas V launch vehicle from Kennedy Space Center. The MMS mission aims at observing the Earth's magnetosphere, and JAXA participates in the mission as a collaborative research organization of the Dual Ion Sensor (DIS.)
On this opportunity, I also toured Kennedy Space Center and Marshall Space Flight Center to find dynamic changes there such as future plans of the ORION, the Space Launch System (SLS) as well as launch pad renovation for coping with future plans and the Falcon launch vehicle. At the Marshall Space Flight Center, I realized it is not only a major R&D hub for propulsion systems, but also plays an important and central role for space science and earth observations.

The 3rd World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai

At the 3rd World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction held from March 14 in Sendai, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced the "Sendai Cooperation Initiative for Disaster Risk Reduction." The following three items were pointed out as specific policies for Earth observation satellites.

  1. 1 ) Dispatching specialists and providing technological cooperation for "compiling a hazard map for disaster risk assessment," "research assistance for adapting to climate change," and "technologies for disaster observation, prediction and warning."
  2. 2 ) Helping to maintain high-quality infrastructure that is promoted by the government through disaster observations, prediction, and warning by providing and maintaining satellites.
  3. 3 ) Further promoting the Sentinel Asia as a global cooperation framework.

JAXA has already been engaged in the above activities, but we will further actively promote them. We will especially utilize cutting edge optical satellites and other advanced tools more efficiently to play a more effective role in global disaster preparation activities.
During this conference, Vanuatu suffered huge damage from a tropical cyclone, and we provided observation data from the Advanced Land Observing Satellite-2 "DAICHI-2" (ALOS-2) according to requests for emergency observations to the International Charter on Space and Major Disasters from the Sentinel Asia and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA.)

Scientific knowledge acquired by SMILES

The Superconducting Submillimeter-Wave Limb-Emission Sounder (SMILES) aboard the Kibo's Exposed Facility is a sensor to observe chemical materials related to ozone layer depletion.
SMILES is highly accurate compared to conventional sensors by adapting observation technology of small amounts of radio waves using a cryogenic refrigerator for astronomical observations in Japan. In addition, it can perform observations in various times of the day by being installed on the Kibo.
To date, the fluctuation of the amount of ozone in the stratosphere in one day is believed to be very little and ignorable.
SMILES, which was launched in Sept. 2009, was able to carry out observations for only six months due to instrument trouble, but, based on that observation data, research by Takatoshi Sakazaki of Kyoto University and others found that the ozone amount in the stratosphere actually changes as much as 4 to 6 percent within one day. Ozone layer depletion negatively affects our health; therefore, the use of Freon, which is said to be a cause of depletion, has been limited, and the ozone layer has been gradually recovering since we entered the 21st century. However, its recovery process is quite slow as it is said to recover only a few percent per 10 years, thus the layer's full recovery is internationally discussed to take 50 or even 100 years.
The findings by SMILES this time of 4 to 6% of fluctuations in a day is within the same order of the long-term fluctuations. Hence, if we do not incorporate fluctuations within one day, our discussion on the prediction of the long-term changes may end up being wrong.
The research result of 4 to 6 % change within a day is published as SMILES' achievement in the Scientific Assessment of Ozone Depletion 2014 compiled by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) as it is recognized as an influential finding for future ozone layer depletion assessments.
We plan to explain SMILES' achievement to the media sometime in the near future.

Asteroid Explorer "Hayabusa2"

As we announced in our press release dated March 3, the Hayabusa2 completed its initial functional confirmation period and is now in the cruising phase heading to the asteroid 1999 JU3. We will keep you updated.

Astronaut Yui

Astronaut Kimiya Yui, who is scheduled to stay at the International Space Station for a long period from May, just had a training session in Houston, which was open to the media, and he held a press conference there. He will hold another conference around mid-April to explain his mission about one month prior to his trip to space. We will inform you of the date as soon as it is decided.