JAXA President Monthly Press Conference December 2020

JAXA President Monthly Press Conference

Speech Abstracts by Hiroshi Yamakawa, President of JAXA
Date and time: From 1:30 - 2:15 p.m. on December 11 (Fri), 2020
Venue: Online
MC: Akiko Suzuki, Director, Public Affairs Department

Current status of optical communication devices onboard optical data relay satellites

The optical data relay satellite was launched by the H-IIA F-43 rocket from the Tanegashima Space Center on November 29. I would like to report on the current status of the optical communication devices of Laser Utilizing Communication System (LUCAS) onboard the satellite.

After the launch, the satellite was successfully injected into the target geostationary orbit in about 10 days, as originally planned. Then, on December 9, we confirmed that the optical communication devices of LUCAS were activated and the initial functional verification on the orbit became possible.
This will be followed by the Initial Functional Verification Phase to verify that each function is normal, which will then proceed to regular operation to start technology demonstration. In addition to conducting optical communication experiment and its evaluation with an optical ground station in cooperation with the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT),a national research and development agency, we will sequentially conduct technical and operational demonstrations of optical inter-satellite communication in coordination with the optical communication equipment onboard the Advanced Optical Satellite (ALOS-3) by using obtained observation data. ALOS-3 is scheduled to be launched in the next fiscal year.
Taking advantage of the overwhelming wide area coverage and immediacy of optical data relay satellites, as well as their high-speed and large-capacity communication features, we will aim to implement them in society as the core of a high-speed space communication network to "support the digital society from space" by also using them as measures against disaster. I would like to share the results of the technology demonstrations with you when they become available.

Asteroid Explorer "Hayabusa2" Mission

On December 6 this week, the re-entry capsule of the asteroid explorer "Hayabusa2" entered the Earth's atmosphere showing beautiful fireball streaks and landed as planned in the Woomera Prohibited Area, Australia, and was successfully recovered. The image of “Hayabusa2” was also successfully captured from the International Space Station just before the explorer makes the closest approach to the Earth. Once again, I would like to express my gratitude to all the people concerned, both in Japan and overseas, who have supported us and to the people of Japan who have cheered us on.
This completes the six-year exploration to asteroid "Ryugu.” The Hayabusa2 spacecraft has entered the extended mission phase, and has been flying smoothly toward its next target, the asteroid "1998 KY26," confirming its good health after the Earth swing-by.

After recovering the re-entry capsule, we collected gas from the capsule at the local headquarters in Australia on December 7, and on December 8, we brought it into the clean room of the Extraterrestrial Sample Curation Center at the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science in Sagamihara.
We are now in the process of removing the heat shield of the capsule and have started to check and inspect the appearance of the capsule parts other than the sample container such as the electronics section and parachute. From the next week onwards, we will start the initial confirmation of the sample including optical observation, weighing and spectroscopic observation, etc., but the detailed analysis of the sample will be started by the initial analysis team in a full-fledged manner around June 2021. I am also looking forward to seeing the analysis of the sample bring significant scientific results that will provide clues to the origins of the solar system and life.
By the way, some of the members who are in charge of collecting the capsule have already returned to Japan for the transport of the capsule. The remaining members are scheduled to return early next week.

“Hayabusa2” was launched from the Tanegashima Space Center in December 2014. It took about three and a half years to arrive at asteroid “Ryugu,” where it successfully touched down twice. Particularly in the second touchdown, it created an artificial crater and attempted, for the first time in the world, to collect ejected interior material from a carbonaceous C-type asteroid, which is believed to contain organic matter and water.
Through the “Hayabusa2” mission, we were able to demonstrate both at home and abroad that Japan has world-leading technologies. I am very happy that we were able to achieve this mission with the support of overseas organizations and governments, and by gathering full force of ALL JAXA, not to mention the members of the “Hayabusa2” project. JAXA will continue to accumulate its achievement one by one, and we will brace ourselves for future scientific exploration and further international space exploration.

Roundup of JAXA’s Activities This year

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the launch of Japan's first artificial satellite “OHSUMI.” I believe that we have achieved a number of results that befits this milestone and will lead to the next 50 years.

Let me give you an example for satellite and spacecraft. In addition to “Hayabusa2,” International Mercury Exploration Mission "BepiColombo” is being conducted by JAXA’s Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter “MIO” and the European Space Agency's (ESA) Mercury Surface Orbiter (MPO). When the “BepiColombo” spacecraft conducted Venus swing-by in October, JAXA's Venus Climate Orbiter "AKATSUKI," which is currently orbiting Venus, and the Planetary Spectroscopic Observing Satellite "HISAKI," which is currently orbiting the Earth, conducted simultaneous observations of Venus by the three spacecrafts for the first time in the world. The simultaneous observations of the plasma environment, etc., around Venus have yielded valuable observation data.
In terms of rocket launch, we started with the launch of the S-310-45 observation rocket in January. In May, the H-II Transfer Vehicle “KOUNOTORI9” (HTV9), the cargo transporter to the International Space Station, was launched aboard the H-IIB Launch Vehicle No. 9 In July, JAXA launched H-IIA Launch Vehicle No.42 encapsulating the UAE’s (United Arab Emirates) Mars probe "HOPE.” we were very pleased to see that Japan's mainstay rocket was able to meet overseas demands. The launch of the H-IIA Launch Vehicle No. 43 in November marked the 50th consecutive successful launch of the H-IIA, H-IIB and Epsilon rockets, a milestone for Japan's mainstay rocket system.
The target launch date of the H3 Launch Vehicle, which is being developed as Japan’s next mainstay rocket, was postponed, but development tests are underway with the aim of achieving a steady launch. The core airframe of the H3 Launch Vehicle test flight No. 1 is scheduled to be open to the press on January 13 next year.

This year, the novel coronavirus infection has spread worldwide, threatening the safety of many people and having a tremendous impact on economic activities and social life. JAXA set up itscountermeasure headquarters in February and issued a business continuity plan (BCP) in April in response to the government's declaration of state of emergency. Accordingly, we have been working on the launch of the core rocket, the operation of the International Space Station (ISS) including astronauts and the Japanese Experiment Module "Kibo," as well as the operations of preventing the loss of satellites and explorers in orbit, because they are the most important to JAXA.
In addition, in cooperation with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the European Space Agency (ESA), we, as a new initiative, analyzed the global changes caused by COVID-19 using the Earth observation satellite data, and disseminated this information to the world.

The cargo transporter to the International Space Station “KOUNOTORI9” (HTV9) was the final vehicle in the series. For about 11 years from HTV1 in 2009 to this year's HTV9, the H-II Transfer Vehicle “KOUNOTORI” has fulfilled an important responsibility of maintaining and operating the International Space Station and protecting the safety and lifeline of astronauts in orbit. We are proud that all “KOUNOTORI” in series have been able to fulfill their responsibilities, making an international contribution.
In November, Astronaut Soichi Noguchi boarded the first operational Crew Dragon, the first civilian spacecraft, and started his third stay on the ISS. We are confident that he will be successfully able to carry out his mission during the next six months. As for astronauts, JAXA will start recruiting new astronauts in the next fiscal year. In addition, it has been decided that astronauts Koichi Wakata and Satoshi Furukawa will stay on the ISS for an extended period of time, so we believe JAXA’s astronauts are also making another milestone. We are committed to continuing to strive for Japan’s international contribution.

Although the impact of COVID-19 has been extremely large this year, JAXA has been working together with all related parties to carry out this year's projects. We are relieved, albeit briefly, that JAXA has been able to ensure the stable launch of rockets and to protect its important missions. We would like to express our heartfelt gratitude to all those who helped us. The encouragement we have received from the people of Japan has been the most important source of strength and support for us. I would like to thank the people of Japan once again.
Last but not least, we appreciate a lot of coverage by the news media. Thank you very much for all coverages for this year. I apologize for the inconvenience caused by the lack of face-to-face press conferences and interviews. This situation is likely to continue for the time being, and your continued understanding and cooperation is much appreciated.

This greeting may be a bit early, but I hope you all have a happy new year.