JAXA President Monthly Press Conference May 2021

JAXA President Monthly Press Conference

Speech Abstracts by Hiroshi Yamakawa, President of JAXA
Date and time: From 1:30 - 2:15 p.m. on May 14 (Fri), 2021
Venue: Online
MC: Kaori Sasaki, Director, Public Affairs Department

Astronaut NOGUCHI Soichi Returns to Earth and Astronaut HOSHIDE Akihiko Starts the Long-Duration Mission

JAXA Astronaut NOGUCHI Soichi departed Earth aboard the Crew Dragon spacecraft (Crew-1) launched on November 16, 2020, to start a long-duration stay on the International Space Station (ISS) on November 17, and returned on May 2, 2021, having completed the 5 and half-month mission. At present, he is undergoing post-mission rehabilitation programs in Houston, USA. He has been making steady progress in adapting to the gravity environment on Earth, recovering functionality sufficient to carry out major daily activities.

Through the recent mission, Astronaut NOGUCHI has achieved a range of distinctive results. Major achievements include: becoming the first Japanese astronaut to board the first operational crewed flight of a Crew Dragon spacecraft; conducting experiments for various themes, such as for iPS cell applications in the regenerative medicine area; successful small satellite deployment; and fulfilling his fourth extravehicular activity (EVA) task, setting a Japanese record. His latest EVA contributed to the upgraded power supply of the ISS by installing a new solar array mount.

We are proud of his successful completion of these important missions. On behalf of JAXA, I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to all those who have offered valued support and cooperation to Astronaut NOGUCHI’s long-duration mission on the ISS.

JAXA Astronaut HOSHIDE Akihiko boarded the Crew Dragon spacecraft (Crew-2) launched on April 23, 2021, and arrived at the ISS on April 24 to start a long-duration stay. He became an ISS commander on April 28, and will thus serve as head of the ISS crew onboard for around five months to come. We hope that to serve this role, he will fully demonstrate his leadership skills built through day-to-day duties and training on the ground as well as his proven capabilities to carry out space activities. He has already begun to function well, as indicated by reports from the ISS. One example is about the emergency drill run on the evening of March 13 JST. The drill aimed to equip crew members to act appropriately to shelter in specified emergency return vehicles, a challenge involving complicated processes to be handled in cooperation with ground personnel. In the recent session, Commander HOSHIDE exercised adequate leadership to ensure that necessary procedures were performed properly, producing fruitful results.

During his current expedition, Astronaut HOSHIDE will conduct a battery of space experiments in the Japanese Experiment Module “Kibo,” including for technology demonstration for a next-generation water reclamation system and high quality protein crystal growth. One key to successful progress in these experiments is close cooperation between the on-orbit lab and ground-based researchers in each theme and the mission control, and Astronaut HOSHIDE will carry out this challenge, encouraging “a spirit of teamwork”, one of the themes he is focusing on while pursuing his current ISS mission.

The new ISS commander has started to execute major duties relating to the station’s maintenance and on-orbit experiment and other activities. The ongoing engagement is in organizing articles in the facility of Kibo ahead of the arrival of SpaceX CRS-22, the commercial resupply service mission planned to be launched in coming June, and commencing experiments using the electrostatic levitation furnace (ELF), which is progressing steadily. We would appreciate your continued support and cooperation to these activities.

Around the autumn of this year, JAXA will start to receive applications for the new Japanese astronaut candidate program, for the first time in 13 years. A current total of seven JAXA astronauts, including NOGUCHI and HOSHIDE, are carefully looked at by many aspiring astronauts as a successful model. As such, we hope they will act with confidence in being Japan’s representative astronauts and work on their duties.

JAXA Selects a Private Business Partner for the Kibo PCG Project

JAXA is committed to expanding the utilization of the ISS’s Japanese Experiment Module “Kibo” in line with the policy of advancing the low earth orbit (LEO) utilization and commercialization. Thus, we are promoting the Kibo Utilization Strategy, established to transfer user service operations for Kibo to the private sector (privatization).

Under this strategy, we have implemented a number of privatization projects, selecting appropriating private enterprises, in two areas: small satellite deployment and exposed facility (EF) port utilization. In the former segment, a total of six deployment projects have been delivered by selected companies. In the latter, one major program was run for conducting on-orbit experiments, for which small satellite mounted Earth observation cameras developed by a Spanish space venture was installed on the JEM IVA-replaceable Small Exposed Experiment Platform (i-SEEP).

The third and latest-launched area aims to develop high quality protein crystal growth (PCG) technology, taking advantage of the microgravity environment that is free from density difference-induced convection flow. To start off in this area, JAXA called for applications from the private sector for partnership in user service operations, and selected Space BD Inc.

In the PCG area, considering requirements for high-level protein handling technical capabilities and competition with ground-based technology development, it will likely take a considerable period of time before management know-how transfer and market development has progressed adequately. Therefore, we will implement transfer process in a phased manner, starting by outsourcing part of JAXA’s space experiment operations to selected partner companies in order to familiarize them with complicated experimental systems and techniques, and examining approaches to building a system for continued user service provision.

Also, particularly for this partnership, we will prepare an independent participation slot for the selected company to conduct on-orbit experiments aimed at feasibility study for commercializing its original business plans. The company will use the offered opportunity to develop a paid service provision business on its own. Given this privilege, Space BD is considering a variety of plans, for example, to support new agrochemicals development (agrochemical discovery) and industrial-use enzyme development, in addition to drug discovery. JAXA will continue to pursue partnership with the private sector through the Kibo utilization, seeking to expand the market base of space industry.

JAXA Calls for Co-hosts to Nationwide Exhibition of Hayabusa2 Re-entry Capsule

Hayabusa2 returned to Earth in December 2020 six years after its launch to start an asteroid sample-return mission, and successfully brought back a capsule containing samples from the asteroid Ryugu. The initial analysis of the samples has got underway at JAXA and its partner research institutes.

At the same time, JAXA hosted two public exhibitions to showcaase the Hayabusa2 re-entry capsule that delivered valuable samples―first in Sagamihara City Museum (March 2021) and second in the National Museum of Nature and Science, Tokyo. Following this, we have decided to provide a similar opportunity for many more people across the country to have a firsthand look at the object, and thus begun to call for co-hosts to the nationwide exhibition program.

The re-entry capsule to be on display is a real flight object that has actually travelled in space and come back to Earth, representing a precious achievement drawing international attention. We believe that JAXA should arrange an opportunity to allow the public in general to look at such valuable real thing as a way to express its gratitude for their continued support. The exhibition will also include an introduction of a range of related achievements from the completed Hayabusa2 mission, such as the world’s most accurate landing with only 60 cm off the target; artificial crater formation and observation of the formation process; seven engineering achievements, including access to subsurface materials of an extraterrestrial body; and observation-based scientific data analysis. These items will be organized for display suitably to inspire particularly many young Japanese to develop an interest in embracing challenges for space exploration and team-based mission engagement as well as awareness of the importance of careful, persistent preparation for completing missions.

We are pleased to have received inquiries about our solicitation from a number of interested entities. We will work to be able to partner with as many of those entities as possible to host a setting throughout the country for showcasing real objects from Hayabusa2. Given the ongoing novel coronavirus epidemic situation, we should ask planned hosts for cooperation in implementing appropriate measures to protect the event from the spread of infection. We hope that many people, including those who visited the public exhibition of the sample return capsule of the initial Hayabusa mission, which was held about 10 years ago, will take the coming opportunity to have a precious experience associated with Hayabusa2.