JAXA President Monthly Press Conference October 2019

JAXA President Monthly Press Conference

Speech Abstracts by Hiroshi Yamakawa, President of JAXA
Date and time: From 1:30 - 2:30 p.m. on October 11 (Fri), 2019
Venue: JAXA Tokyo Office Presentation Room (B1 floor)
MC: Akiko Suzuki, Director, Public Affairs Department

The Current Circumstances of Space Exploration

JAXA is advancing efforts to build robust relationships among internationally cooperative countries and create new industries that introduce private-sector vitality in the field of space exploration by expanding the realm of human activities from Earth’s low orbit to the Earth-Lunar sphere such as lunar orbits and the lunar surface.
With respect to international cooperation, we set up a meeting with President Jean-Yves Le Gall of the French Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales (CNES) on June 6 this year and confirmed that cooperation between CNES and JAXA has become multilayered. In addition, taking advantage of recent visits to Japan by NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine on September 24 and by Chair of the Executive Board Pascale Ehrenfreund of the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) on October 8, we had meetings with each agency to expand and deepen cooperation with the two agencies. Furthermore, we plan to have meetings with various space agencies at the 70th International Astronautical Congress (IAC) scheduled to be held in Washington D.C. the week after next.
In meeting with the NASA administrator, we discussed cooperation between JAXA and NASA in the fields of space exploration, manned space activities, space science and the Earth science, confirmed in particular our intention of bilateral cooperation for the future lunar exploration and signed a joint statement.
Regarding the participation in NASA’s Lunar Gateway project, the government is currently deliberating on the matter. JAXA considers that it is extremely important to work on a lunar exploration under the framework of international cooperation. In order for JAXA to be able to contribute to the Gateway project and sustainable exploration activities on the lunar surface by making the best use of Japan’s strength including technology accumulated through the Japanese Experiment Module “Kibo” on the International Space Station (ISS) and H-II Transfer Vehicle “KOUNOTORI,” we want to expand scientific and technological cooperation with NASA.

As for cooperation with private companies, we are promoting a new initiative by gathering talents and knowledge across various fields at the Space Exploration Innovation Hub Center. With support of the Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST), we conducted the fifth round of the Request for Proposal (RFP) from April through June this year aiming both to develop future exploration technologies on the Moon and Mars and to have private companies create innovation for the ground business. As a result, we received a total of 69 proposals, from which we selected 20 proposals. We have just released the results on our homepage a while ago.
In the latest RFP by the Space Exploration Innovation Hub Center, we focused on medical and healthcare management technology and civilian robotic technology as subjects of proposal. We also solicited proposals for “TansaX challenge research,” which started from last fiscal year aiming to gather innovative ideas. We are glad to have received many proposals (selected 3 proposals out of 17). We hereafter intend to draw up research plans with selected companies and organizations and swiftly start joint research. Amid growing momentum in international space exploration in Japan and overseas, we are committed to brushing up this program of cooperation with private companies and promoting joint research by focusing on fields that have an affinity to space exploration.

Launch of “KOUNOTORI8” and Expanding Activities on Low Earth Orbit

“KOUNOTORI8” was launched on September 25 and successfully rendezvoused with and docked to the International Space Station (ISS) on September 29. The H-II Transfer Vehicle was able to deliver the main supplies including lithium ion batteries, Small Optical Link for International Space Station (SOLISS), Cell Biology Experimental Facility-Left (CBEF-L), a large-size incubator, which is only one in the world, and six kinds of fresh foods to the ISS. The SOLISS is one of the outcomes of joint researches adopted in the first round of Request for Proposal (RFP) by the Space Exploration Innovation Hub Center. We plan to start a test operation of the SOLISS between mid-October and early November. We also plan to start the first phase verification of “CBEF-L” within this month. With respect to the fresh foods, we were able to deliver a new item “Aurora Black,” which is a grape variety, thanks to an ingenious wrapping method. I am glad to hear the ISS crew enjoyed the new item.

On September 30, in collaboration between the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Space Agency and JAXA, UAE’s first-ever astronaut Hazzaa Ali Almansoori carried out an education mission to explain the mechanism of attitude control of a spacecraft by using the JAXA’s camera robot or an internal drone (Int-Ball) in the Japanese Experimental Module Kibo on the International Space Station (ISS). The UAE astronaut on orbit communicated with the UAE students studying in Japan who were invited to the control room of JAXA’s Tsukuba Space Center. We also had the pleasure of having UAE Ambassador to Japan Khaled Omran Alameri.

In addition, there will be a programming contest using NASA’s and JAXA’s internal drones in the ISS (Astrobee from NASA and Int-Ball from JAXA) and started accepting applications for the contest today. We will conduct the contest based on the Japan-US Open Platform Partnership Program (JP-US OP3) concluded between the Japanese and the U.S. governments in December 2015. The contest will provide an educational opportunity to students in Japan and the Asia-Pacific region on robot operation in space and computer programming.

In this way, JAXA is conducting various activities in “Kibo.” We will continue operating the ISS and the Japanese Experimental Module “Kibo” until 2024. Countries that participate in the ISS including Japan will discuss plans after 2025. The design life of the ISS and “Kibo” will eventually expire and their operation will come to an end.

Under the circumstances, JAXA, while taking into consideration cost-effectiveness, intends to continuously secure opportunities to conduct low Earth orbit activities including the space environment utilization and space experiments and actively examine the expansion of new utilization of the space environment. Recently, we issued an “Request for Information (RFI) for the continuous implementation and expansion of low Earth orbit activities.” The RFI is aimed at soliciting information from a wide range of fields and industries related to low Earth orbit activities to examine the building of a system in place of the ISS and “Kibo.” We expect information on a new system that provides a series of means covering from launch to the provision of on-orbit service environment to the recovery on the ground. Based on information provided, JAXA will draw up drafts for system requirements and development and procurement plans and propose them to the government for coordination. In drawing up plans, we intend to have a business operator provide a series of means as consecutive service to manage it as an independent project.

Termination of Super Low Altitude Test Satellite “TSUBAME” (SLATS) Operation

The orbit keeping operation of Super Low Altitude Test Satellite “TSUBAME” (SLATS) launched on December 23, 2017, successfully ended on September 30, 2019, and we stopped signal transmission on October 1, 2019. Hours after the suspension, “TSUBAME” re-entered the atmosphere.

By using an ion engine, which has extremely small thrust but high thrust efficiency, “TSUBAME” demonstrated the orbit keeping technology at six different altitudes between 271.1 km and 181.1 km. In experiments for obtaining high resolution optical images, “TSUBAME” achieved high-quality images. While obtaining images, the satellite was also able to obtain data for an unprecedentedly extended period of time on atmospheric density, atomic oxygen density and the condition of degradation of material samples exposed to the atmosphere. The satellite also demonstrated that materials developed by JAXA can endure the exposure to atomic oxygen for a long period of time. By using the ion engine, JAXA achieved the Earth observation operation at super low altitudes and was able to obtain fundamental technologies and technical know-how on anti-atomic oxygen measures, which is for the first time in the world. We are expecting that technology and knowledge obtained through the development and operation of “TSUBAME” will be used for the development of scientific technology and resolution of social issues.

We deeply appreciate cooperation and support for the development and operation of “TSUBAME” from all agencies and all concerned.

Practical Examples for the Social Implementation of Research and Development Results by Government-Private Sector Cooperation

It is my pleasure to report on practical examples for the social implementation of research and development results by government-private sector cooperation in the field of aviation and the winning of an award in relation to satellite data utilization.

The first example is efforts for the aviation field. MRO (Maintenance, Repair & Overhaul) is an acronym used in the aviation industry. MRO is a regular maintenance for aircraft and plays an important role in supporting aircraft safety. As a result of government-private sector cooperation between Japanese companies and JAXA’s Aeronautical Technology Directorate aiming to access the MRO market, Shinmei Industry Co., Ltd., its group company Shinmei Tohoku Machinery Co., Ltd., and JAXA jointly developed “CFRP damage repair device.” CFRP, is carbon fiber reinforced plastic.

There are two points about this device. The first point is usability. The device was developed under the slogan “Anyone, simple and reliable.” Once the device is set at a repair point, just simple button operation can full-automatically eliminate cracks on the airframe that may affect safety. The mechanism of device operation was achieved by ingenious combination of simple parts such as gear wheels and levers. This is called “gadget mechanism,” which does not require operators to “master complicated software operation.” “Only simple button operation” makes it possible high-quality and reliable repair works.

The second point is the timing of launching the device onto the MRO market. All Nippon Airways Co., Ltd., introduced Boeing 787 for the first time in the world. This airplane is most frequently operated in the world among mid-size airplanes manufactured by the Boeing Company. A large amount of CFRP is used for the airframe, which will require a large-scale maintenance for quite a few 787s in a few years. Japan will take the lead in this large-scale maintenance. The use of the CFRP damage repair device invented by Japan’s technology for this major maintenance will be a perfect opportunity to publicize Japan’s technology to the world. We plan a formal debut of the CFRP damage repair device at the Farnborough International Air Show to be held in the UK in 2020. Your continued attention to the device is much appreciated.

Next, I am going to explain about winning an award for ANATIS, “an infrastructure displacement monitoring tool based on satellite SAR data.” SAR is synthetic aperture radar.

In recent years, Japan’s infrastructure such as airports and embankments deteriorate further, which reveals social issues including risks of serious accidents, the surge of maintenance costs and declining maintenance engineers. In response to such challenges, the use of satellite data has made it possible to more frequently and widely monitor infrastructure. This can make inspections more efficient and make it possible spatial and temporal complementation. ANATIS is an automatic analysis tool for SAR data sent from the Advanced Land Observing Satellite-2 “DAICHI-2” (ALOS-2). The use of this tool makes it possible infrastructure monitoring using satellite data without technical knowledge on satellite SAR data.

The development of ANATIS, a tool that enables users with no experience of using satellite data to easily analyze satellite data was highly evaluated as an effort to create new value in the survey and inspection of infrastructure. As a result, we received the “Minister of Internal Affairs and Communications award concerning the excellent utilization of information communication technology” among the infrastructure and maintenance awards. JAXA is committed to continuously aiming to achieve social implementation through the application of research results, which will lead to safe and prosperous society.

Demonstration of Commercial Removal of Debris

The number of space debris (or debris) in orbits goes on increasing year after year. It is anticipated that space debris will impede human space activities in the future. Under the circumstances, the number of private business operators, who desire to commercialize the removal of debris, is increasing for the sustainable utilization of outer space.

JAXA is aiming to realize “the world’s first removal of large debris” for the purpose of contributing to the sustainable utilization of outer space, creating a new market and securing Japan’s international competitiveness. JAXA will issue an RFP concerning phase I of this project and put into practice a partnership initiative by taking advantage of the vitality of private business operators who aim to commercialize anti-space debris measures. Phase I is one of the plans to demonstrate the removal of large debris originating from Japan. We chose large debris as the target because its removal is highly effective in the removal of space debris. During phase I, we will control a device and approach in close proximity to the debris to obtain images that can elucidate the movement, damage and deterioration of such debris. This process requires high-level technology, and no country has yet to succeed in capturing such images.

This time, in order to allow private business operators to act on their own and have them gain international competitiveness, JAXA will take a new approach. Instead of procuring a satellite as we did in the past, JAXA will procure data on orbit needed to study debris left in orbits as well as knowledge on competitive reliability and quality assurance process of the private sector. We will also adopt the payment method in which the amount set forth at the time of contract conclusion will be paid at each time the contractor clears target criteria of the development stage. This will give private business operators more discretion as well as build a framework capable of collaborating with JAXA’s technological development activities for the future

The deadline for submission of the final proposal is November 21, 2019. We will select private business operators around the end of January next year. Please refer to the JAXA’s homepage for more details.

“Kurumin” Certification

Effective September 3, JAXA was able to receive certification (nicknamed “Kurumin”) from the Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare as an organization that provide support to employees’ career and raising children.
As you know, “Kurumin” is the certification system and its nickname based on the Act on Advancement of Measure to Support Raising Next-Generation Children (that came into force in 2005). To receive certification, all of 10 certification criteria must be satisfied including the “achievement of objectives specified in an action plan,” “percentage of male employees who acquired leave for the purpose of childcare” and “percentage of female employees’ acquiring parental leave.”
JAXA also received in September 2017 the highest-level certification (nicknamed “Eruboshi”) from the Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare as an organization with excellent working conditions for the promotion of women’s participation and advancement in the workplace. Moreover, with the support of Company-led Childcare Project promoted by the Cabinet Office, JAXA opened a nursery school (“JAXA Soranoko Nursery School”) in the Chofu Aerospace Center in FY 2018. The school is opened to the local community. This is the second nursery school after “JAXA Hoshinoko Nursery School” opened in the Tsukuba Space Center in April 2012.
We would like to continue improving the working environment and promoting work-life balance aiming to make JAXA “an ideal workplace in the aerospace field” where each employee can work in a lively manner.