JAXA President Monthly Press Conference April 2018

JAXA President Monthly Press Conference

Speech Abstracts by Hiroshi Yamakawa, President of JAXA
Date and time: From 1:30 - 2:15 p.m. on April 13 (Fri), 2018
Venue: JAXA Tokyo Office Presentation Room (B1 floor)
MC: Yoshikazu Shoji, Director, Public Affairs Department

It is the very first monthly press conference of this new Japanese fiscal year. It is also the first conference that I hold. I cordially welcome everyone and hope we will start off on the right foot.

Agenda of JAXA's Forth mid-term Plan

JAXA starts its forth midterm strategy plans with new board members. My remarks at the inaugural briefing still stand – JAXA should continue pioneering a new frontier. JAXA will aspire to become an organization that creates values to society. To be specific, JAXA will pitch in new fields of activities, lunar exploration for one. Also, JAXA is taking up collaboration and cooperation with new players, including local governments that have not yet participated in space, private companies unrelated to space business and institutions that engage in national security. Along the way, JAXA is willing to try new technologies such as Artificial Intelligence and big data. JAXA will try its best to advance these endeavors and keep Japanese government advised with project suggestions to get them incorporated in government’s Basic Plans for the Space Policy.
Since the beginning of this new term, JAXA is going through organizational reforms for higher efficiency, inter-organizational cooperation and overall structural adjustment. Restructuring the Business Development and Industrial Relations Department is the primary focus of all. This department thus work on securing the foundation and international competitiveness of Japanese industry. Their works are organized to grow and develop Japanese space industry by expanding the community that uses and benefits from space technology and creating new space businesses. To that end, the Business Development and Industrial Relations Department has facilitated collaboration with different types of industries and private enterprises; the establishment of a JAXA authorized brand as called ‘JAXA COSMODE’, JAXA Open Laboratory incorporated with public participation-type system; simultaneous launches of small satellites as well as business applications of JAXA originated technologies.

JAXA is aware that globally, space industry is undergoing a revolution. Emergence and development of private space businesses are taking shape mostly in the United States and the trend is spreading. In Japan, too, space ventures are going into business with an increasing supply of risk money loaned by investment agencies and banks.

Last December, ispace Inc. raised some 10 billion yen to start development of lunar resources. Government-backed Development Bank of Japan (DBJ), sought JAXA for technical information that weighed in on DBJ’s investment decision, by professional consultation sanctioned by the DBJ-JAXA cooperation agreement signed in May 2017.

The Japanese government announced last month the new initiative to support space startups in the country. In the program, a pool totaling nearly 100 billion yen of venture capital, funded both by Japanese public and private sources will be offered over five years to the Japanese companies in the space sector. The package calls for JAXA to fledge these entrepreneurs and provide them with support in areas like technical and human resources.

In order to better assist Japanese space businesses, since this April, JAXA has consolidated its several strategic planning functions into a reinforced operation within the Business Development and Industrial Relations Department.

Hereafter, we intend to implement partnership-shaped technological development and verification, while developing conventional work referred to earlier. In addition, the fusion with technologies in other fields and covering existing knowledge through open innovation are also proceeded. JAXA makes its asset available and keeps in step with the government-led initiatives to grow space startups and use of satellite data.

JAXA Fiscal 2018 Strategic Plans

Here are some updates on JAXA fiscal 2018 strategic plans, in particular, those for human missions, space science and JAXA’s rockets. JAXA’s four initiatives for the forth midterm are (1) ensuring national security and helping make society a safe and secure one, (2) enabling an expanded, robust use of space and thereby stimulating Japanese industries, (3) producing the world class space science and exploration results and thus maintaining and increasing the nation’s international presence in the fields and (4) helping Japanese aerospace industry flourish and heightening its international competitiveness. Internationally, quite a few events related to the third initiative will take place throughout this Japanese fiscal year.

First, sometime between June 21 and July 5, Hayabusa2, the mission to hone JAXA’s asteroid exploration technology cultivated by its predecessor Hayabusa, will rendezvous with Ryugu, an asteroid between the earth and Mars, whose estimated mean diameter is approximately 900 meters. This will occur some 300 million kilometers away from Earth. Hayabusa2 mission will allow JAXA to experiment new technologies – generation of an artificial crater and high-speed communication in deep space, just to name a few. After rendezvous with Ryugu, the Hayabusa2 spacecraft will map the asteroid using its onboard remote sensing instruments and move its onboard landers onto the asteroid’s surface for science observations. This will be done by Japanese MINERVA-II and MASCOT, developed and provided by the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and the French National Centre for Space Studies (CNES). Milestone events of the mission are collecting samples of the asteroid’s surface materials by landing attempts up to three times and sending them to Earth. Following the sample collections, Hayabusa2 will depart Ryugu late 2019 and the spacecraft with samples is scheduled to return to the Earth late 2020, which coincides with the year of Tokyo Olympics.

Second, BepiColombo, the longed-for major Mercury exploration mission will kick off. This is a Japan-Europe joint undertaking where I was honored to serve as the first Project Manager. The payloads installed on to the spacecraft are the Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter (MMO) developed by JAXA and the Mercury Planetary Orbiter by European Space Agency (ESA). The spacecraft is slated for launch this October, reaching its destination in December 2025. The mission is in full swing, completing shipment from ESTEC, ESA’s facility in the Netherlands to the launch pad located in South America, the Guiana Space Center.

These two missions regarding space science and exploration will deepen our understanding of the origin of the solar system and life on Earth. Through them, JAXA also seeks to acquire technologies necessary for internationally orchestrated space exploration – propulsion, atmospheric re-entry, landing and surface exploration technologies on planetary bodies. These will revolutionize deep space navigation, equipping the global community for future missions.
Just last week on March 4, JAXA astronaut Norishige Kanai, on the International Space Station (ISS) expedition since last December, captured the Dragon cargo ship of the United States-based space company. Kanai thus contributed to the ISS cargo delivery mission, becoming the first Japanese astronaut who both did the spacewalk and grappled the spacecraft. The presence of Japanese astronauts is on the rise.

Among the research investigations and equipment arriving on Dragon are small satellites that various countries made such as Turkey, Kenya and Costa Rica, other experiment samples for the ExHAM and mice for rodent research. To fulfill that a major social issue that Japan is facing, Kanai performs testing that centers on health and longevity in the Kibo, Japanese module of the ISS, under Kanai’s mission theme "Discovering clues about health longevity in space.". These include studies on how mice react and adapt to stress onboard the ISS, research to discover causes of Alzheimer’s disease, experiments of protein crystal growth for a novel drug discovery approach and bio-medical experiments on how lactic acid bacteria, sources of probiotics boost immunity. The Kibo use that JAXA promotes ranges from private domestic businesses, academia, to foreign counterparts and beyond.

In this June, his return is scheduled. I strongly expect new results are obtained from various experiments during his expedition. As I mentioned at the outset of this JAXA 2018 Strategic Plans section, JAXA’s implementation of space science and exploration and continued human space activities are of great importance because doing so is directly linked to contribution to international space exploration, a globally coordinated endeavor to expand the boundaries of mankind presence to space. JAXA is committed to providing the world with innovations and implementation of Japanese technology in the manner that draws on the nation’s strength. In addition, it is the Agency’s desire to establish capabilities of sustainable development of human activity into space and thus to keep the country’s presence in the field.

Lastly, JAXA’s satellites scheduled for launch from the JAXA Tanegashima and Uchinoura Space Centers in this fiscal year are the greenhouse gases observing satellite GOSAT-2/ IBUKI-2 onboard H-IIA rocket No. 40, Transfer Vehicle "KOUNOTORI" (HTV) No. 7 by H-IIB rocket No. 7, and the Innovative Technology Verification satellite carrying seven small satellites respectively developed by private companies and universities is scheduled for launch by Epsilon No. 4. Schedule updates will be informed once confirmed.

Dr. Hitoshi Kuninaka Appointed as New Vise President

Effective April 1, four new Vice Presidents have been appointed. Refer to the details on their duties available on the JAXA official website. Since this new fiscal year ushers in science exploration events as brought out in the preceding part, this month, I would like to single out Dr. Hitoshi Kuninaka, Director General of the Institute for Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS), JAXA’s institute that engages in science exploration.

Vice President, Dr. Kuninaka developed the microwave discharge ion engine, Hayabusa’s mission critical technology. Centered on electric propulsion, high performance propulsion system for space instruments, his research field has been robustly advancing. In Japanese fiscal 2010, he received the special Minister’s award of Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. Thereafter in 2015, he took on the new role as Director of the Space Exploration Innovation Hub Center, the organization within JAXA which had just got started to initiate, implement and diffuse research in the entire Agency. The Center embodied an ingenious approach to bring together personnel and expertise from a variety of fields. There, he helped form an inclusive space innovation hub consisted of many Japanese private enterprises which had been unrelated to space and other domestic organizations which had never participated in space. His distinguished service and contributions to the Center have been highly valued.
My expectations are mounting that he will implement internationally unprecedented space exploration based on the expertise, technology and human resources from all across Japan. That will undoubtedly benefit Japanese society.
I would like to feature other Vice Presidents in the future conferences.