JAXA President Monthly Press Conference March 2022

JAXA President Monthly Press Conference

Speech Abstracts by Hiroshi Yamakawa, President of JAXA
Date and time: From 1:30 - 2:15 p.m. on March 11 (Fri), 2022
Venue: Online
MC: Kaori Sasaki, Director, Public Affairs Department

Application for new astronaut candidates closed

JAXA closed its application for new astronaut candidates at noon on March 4, 2022.

The recruitment of astronaut candidates for a new era began on December 20, 2021 and ended last week at noon on March 4, 2022. We received many applications and we have registered a total of 1,563 applications that have completed the process with all required documents submitted as of March 4 at noon. This figure significantly exceeded that registered for the last application in 2008. This is very encouraging. We are also pleased to report that the percentage of female applicants has increased to 20% from 13%.

The final total number of applications will be determined at noon on April 4 (Monday), the due date for submitting the health examination report. The announcement of the result is scheduled for April 5 (Tuesday).

We have received a considerable number of applications that are yet to be completed by submitting the health examination report. We hope to receive more health examination reports to complete applications by noon on April 4.

Call for proposals of ISS Experimental Themes for Asian Try Zero-G 2022

JAXA will launch an international cooperation project “Asian Try Zero-G 2022” targeted for youths in the Asia-Pacific region for purposes of expanding the use of the International Space Station (ISS) and Japanese Experiment Module “Kibo,” and contributing to SDGs through human resources development.

The project will be conducted by responsible organizations of the member countries/regions of Asian Beneficial Collaboration through “Kibo” Utilization (Kibo-ABC) that wish to participate. Participating organizations will each issue a public call for proposals of experiment themes, and each country/region will select candidate themes. After the final selection is made by all participating organizations, the selected experiments will be conducted by JAXA astronauts on Kibo.

The 2022 event represents the first of the series in four years. It also marks the first time for Japan to participate in the project by calling for submission of simple physics experiment themes and plans in the country.

Prior to the coming event, the project was organized six times since the initial event taking place in 2011, finding appropriate opportunities while Japanese astronauts were engaged in a long-duration mission on the orbit. The number of applications registered for the first event was 10, which increased to 169 for the sixth event in 2018, when astronaut KANAI Norishige performed selected experiments. For the seventh event, we hope to receive an even larger number of submissions of ever more unique proposals from the participating countries/regions, including Japan, a new entrant. The experimenter will be Astronaut WAKATA Koichi.

The application deadline for Japanese applicants is May 8. For more details, please visit the dedicated website of Asian Try Zero-G.

Announcement of the 6th round of KiboCUBE program winner

KiboCUBE is a joint initiative between JAXA and the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) started in 2015. The purpose of this program is to offer opportunities to deploy 1U CubeSat (10㎤-sized small satellite) from the Japanese Experiment Module “Kibo” of the International Space Station (ISS) with the objective of contributing to the capacity building of developing countries in space technology and human resources development.

This program is organized to provide educational or research institutes from developing countries without their own capability to launch satellites with opportunities to use Kibo’s function to deploy CubeSats they develop and manufacture. The program has run five rounds of invitation to apply, before the latest one, and selected six countries, including Kenya, Guatemala, and Mauritius, which achieved a successful result.

The two selected projects aim for image acquisition and communication technology demonstration using the CubeSat facility, which is expected to contribute significantly to the future growth of space development activities of the two countries. Satellite deployment for both is scheduled for 2024. JAXA is very glad to be able to support these important endeavors.

The result of the latest selection was announced in the event co-hosted by JAXA and UNOOSA taking an opportunity given by the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space meeting held in Vienna in last February. In the event, Ambassador HIKIHARA Takeshi, from Permanent Representative of Japan to the International Organizations in Vienna, as well as equivalent ambassadors from the two countries were invited, and each delivered their celebratory remarks, including appreciation for our activities. We would like to express our gratitude for the kindness and cooperation of the honorable guests for making this a very significant event.

In Kenya, one of the past winners, the successful project gave a strong traction to the establishment of the local space agency. This represents a notable record of international contribution made through Kibo by providing dependable support to the capacity building of developing countries.

JAXA will continue promoting the KiboCUBE program to facilitate the usage of Kibo, as part of efforts to contribute to the capacity building of developing countries in space technology and human resources development.

Report on the runway snow and ice monitoring system demonstration test

JAXA has conducted a demonstration test for the airport runway snow and ice monitoring system, one of the technologies aimed at within the framework of WEATHER-Eye (WEATHER-Endurance Aircraft Technology to Hold, Evade and Recover by Eye). The related notice was issued in a press release dated November 18, 2021.

This system is designed to perform real-time monitoring of the conditions of snow and ice on runways and taxiing ways and transmit the data to aircraft and the airport administrator. In the plan, obtained data will be visualized and shared so as to assist with making decisions regarding takeoff and landing as well as the need for snow removal work for runways, a measure for improved safety and efficiency of aircraft operation.

In 2022, we started carrying out full-scale demonstration tests for the developed system. Initial major tests were performed for an embedded runway sensor system in Fukui Airport and New Chitose Airport, in January and February, respectively.

The type of snow differs between the two airports. Taking advantage of this situation, the tests were able to demonstrate the effective sensor measurement of snow conditions and thickness for different types of snow, a finding born out by AI-enabled analysis of optical characteristics.

Major achievements from the demonstration were capabilities established to: determine a nearly full range of snow type and thickness data involved in the global reporting format for runway surface conditions; and present snow accumulation forecast using appropriate forecast models and based on sensor measurement data and weather forecast data. The airport administrators have recognized the effectiveness of the system for providing data supporting decision-making, suggesting a substantial advancement toward the introduction of the system to the airport.

We will continue with the relevant efforts, enhancing collaboration with partner development institutes and airport operators while addressing technical issues such as improving sensor accuracy and administrative procedures for installing the system to the airport, with a view to starting the full-scale operation of the snow and ice monitoring system at the airport in fiscal 2025. In order to meet this schedule, we will ramp up system development activities, focusing on demonstration tests and technical transfer, over the coming three years.

In addition, we are considering the possibility of applying the related technology to road and railroad systems. We hope to utilize the achievements in the aviation area for solving issues facing other different areas.