JAXA President Monthly Press Conference October 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 October 15 (Fri), 2021
Venue: Online
MC: Kaori Sasaki, Director, Public Affairs Department

First of all, we would like to offer our sincere apologies for the inconvenience and concerns caused by the last-minute cancellation and postponement of the launch of the Epsilon-5 carrying the Innovative Satellite Technology Demonstration-2. We are deeply sorry to all of those concerned and extending support to our activities, specifically, residents of the region where the Space Center is located as well as the owners of the satellites. We are carefully preparing for the rescheduled launch to ensure a successful result, giving first priority to safety.

Updates on activities of JAXA astronauts

On October 4, 2021, astronaut HOSHIDE Akihiko served out his term as ISS commander about five months after he assumed the role on April 28, and passed the mantle to the new commander, astronaut PESQUET Thomas from France. I am very proud of the Japanese astronaut’s successful completion of the grave responsibilities as leader of the ISS’s international crew.

Also, HOSHIDE was involved in preparations for the deployment of CubeSats mounted on JAXA’s JEM Small Satellite Orbital Deployer (J-SSOD), which was performed on October 6. His tasks included installation of heat insulator in the deployer and transfer of the deployer to the Japanese Experiment Module Kibo’s airlock. The program was successfully completed to release four satellites, comprising two developed by a Philippine university and two by an Australian university. JAXA, as a representative of Japan, will promote the J-SSOD project as part of international contribution efforts.

It has been decided that astronaut WAKATA Koichi will board the fifth operational Crew Dragon developed by Space-X. The launch is scheduled for autumn in 2022 or later. It will be his fifth flight to space, following the three U.S. Space Shuttle missions in 1996, 2000, and 2009 and a Russian Soyuz mission in 2013. In the planned flight, the Crew Dragon spacecraft will carry a Japanese astronaut for the third straight year, following NOGUCHI Soichi and HOSHIDE Akihiko. I believe that this indicates the recognition of significant contribution made by Japanese astronauts in implementing the ISS mission.

WAKATA is currently engaged in preparation training for the coming ISS expedition, which was announced in November 2020. In response to the recent decision of the flight plan, I expect that he is stepping up his training programs.

Call for participation in the Space Education Center’s Seeds in Space 2021 program

Astronaut NOGUCHI Soichi conducted an Asian Herb in Space (AHiS) experiment in the International Space Station (ISS) during his long duration expedition. AHiS is a space botany experiment project featuring herb seeds sourced from the Asia-Pacific region, and its purpose is to provide students and young researchers in the Asia-Pacific region with an opportunity to learn about space experiments conducted in the Japanese Experiment Module Kibo and space environment utilization for research purposes.

The AHiS project consists of two missions. In Mission 1, two species of herb are grown in the ISS facility for cultivation and observation. In Mission 2, herb seed samples collected from 12 countries and territories in the Asia-Pacific region are stored in the spacecraft to “travel in space” for a certain period of time before returned to respective originating locations on Earth, where participating organizations use the returned samples for educational and research purposes. In Japan, the Seeds in Space 2021 program will get underway to develop educational outreach activities using seeds returned from Mission 2.

In the Seeds in Space 2021 program, returned seed samples will be provided to preschool and elementary school children (from age six to 12) so that the children will grow the seeds and perform experiments using the plants. The program target will be sweet basil, the herb species selected for the AHiS Mission 1 botanical experiment conducted by Astronaut NOGUCHI in the ISS. The plan is that participating children will keep observation journals and submit them together with overall comments upon completing the program. Additional plans are being scheduled to provide an opportunity for social media-based international exchange between children participating in similar programs across the Asia-Pacific region.

I hope that the project of cultivating seeds returned from space travel will help participating young students develop their sensitivity in general and inspire their interest in nature and science as well as space activities.

Collaboration activities with the private sector-business

The Space Exploration Innovation Hub Center develops collaborations with organizations from various fields and sectors regardless of whether or not they are related to space development activities. Based on its “Dual Utilization” policy, which focuses on two objects―development of future Lunar, Martian and other planetary system exploration technologies through joint research with a number of private enterprises and universities; and innovations in commercial businesses which are independent from space―, the Center invites and receives submissions to the request for proposal (RFP) every year, starting from 2015.

Major past achievements include the solid-state marine radar developed by Koden Electronics Co., Ltd., which was applied to the ground radar to track Hayabusa2 sample return capsule. Another notable achievement is the Small Optical Link for International Space Station (SOLISS) developed jointly with Sony Computer Science Laboratories, Inc. Last year, a demonstration program was run for the system using the ISS facility, where an optical downlink was successfully established from the on-board system to the commercial optical ground station of a non-Japanese enterprise, marking the world’s first successful space-to-ground communication of this kind.

Following these track records, JAXA called for submissions to the seventh RFP between June and July 2021, and has selected 19 projects from among those received. The result was announced today.

Among selected submissions is one related to ultra-high resolution 3D cross-sectional imaging technology, which is expected to support future space science exploration activities. Other themes included are for the effective use, including recycling, of resources necessary for space activities, such as turning atmospheric carbon dioxide and organic waste materials into resources.

Also, in response to the interim report of the government’s Innovative Space Transportation Roadmap, issued in May this year, JAXA’s Research and Development Directorate launched the Consortium for Innovative Space Transportation Programs, a platform to bring together the wisdom of the public and private sector. Specifically, the consortium aims to promote collaborative research efforts to develop new component and manufacturing technologies for space transportation that can also be applied to commercial businesses which are independent from space, with a view to substantial cost reduction.

In past July and August, we called for submissions to the first RFP for the new consortium, inviting a broad range of innovation themes from various organizations, including those not engaged in space development. From submissions received, we have selected 21 projects, half of which are from enterprises and universities with no experience in space development.

We will expand the consortium on an ongoing basis in order to embrace enterprises, universities and other organizations from space and non-space fields alike, aiming to contribute to the growth not only of the space development sector but also of Japan’s industry as a whole.