JAXA President Monthly Press Conference April 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 April 15 (Fri), 2022
Venue: Online
MC: Kaori Sasaki, Director, Public Affairs Department

Thank you for accessing JAXA today to attend its fiscal 2022 first monthly press conference.

First, I would like to take this opportunity to inform you of the recent change of board members. Vice President SANO Hisashi has been appointed to supervise the Research and Development Directorate and Aeronautical Technology Directorate, taking over from former Vice President HARIGAE Masatoshi, who has left his relevant position. In association with this change, Vice President SANO stepped down as Senior Vice President, and new Senior Vice President SUZUKI Kazuhiro has been appointed. The remaining board members will continue to serve in the current positions. The revised team will endeavor to fulfill its duties going forward. We would appreciate your continued understanding and support.

1. Report on business trip to the U.S.

I visited the U.S. for the entire last week.

The major purpose of the trip was to participate in the 37th Space Symposium from April 4 (Mon) to 6 (Wed). The event is known as the U.S. largest space-related symposium, held annually in Colorado Springs.

In the symposium, I was invited to speak in the Head of Space Agency session along with seven other representatives from the U.S. Europe and Canada. I presented a report on an array of topics, including: Japan’s planned contributions to Gateway missions through providing life-supporting systems and HTV-X-based supplies transportation; a catalog of asteroid Ryugu samples retuned by Hayabusa2 released for the Announcement of Opportunity (AO)to call for international research proposals, which are currently being received; ongoing preparations for a launch scheduled for 2024 in the Martian Moons eXploration (MMX), joint program between JAXA, NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), the National Centre for Space Studies (CNES), and the German Aerospace Center (DLR); and the commercial removal of debris demonstration (CSD2) project promoted jointly with Astroscale. I also described the likely increasing importance of international partnerships and collaborations with the private sector in the future.

In the following Q&A session, We discussed issues such as sustainable contribution of low-Earth orbiters (LEOs) to deep space exploration; establishing an international code of conduct for peaceful and cooperative space utilization; and activities directed at collaboration with emerging countries.

I exchanged opinions with representatives from the NASA, ESA and other space agencies and government institutions of various countries. Through the meetings, I confirmed a strong sense of partnership and the possibility of developing future cooperation.

Also, JAXA held a joint exhibition with the private sector, in an effort to promote the overseas development of Japan’s space industry. This year’s symposium was the first event in three years since 2019, when the COVID-19 pandemic began to spread. Together with 11 participating Japanese companies, we ran the Japan Booth to display the latest activities of the country’s space business.

Through participation in the meeting this year, I believe that JAXA significantly increased its international presence.

In addition, taking an opportunity given by this trip, I visited NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C., and met with Administrator Bill Nelson, who assumed the post last year. That was the first time I had met him in person, and we had meaningful discussions on several important issues, such as solidifying the partnership between the two agencies and need for advanced international cooperation.

2. Updates on utilization of “Kibo”

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

We have registered a total of 4,127 applications, as has been announced in the press release. It is very encouraging that we have received so many applications, recording 4.3 times the number of 963 registered for the last call for application in 2008. We are also pleased that the percentage of female applicants has increased to 22.3% from 13%. All these entries will undergo screening processes to be shortlisted for astronaut candidates who are to engage in future missions related to the International Space Station (ISS), the Japanese Experiment Module “Kibo,” the Gateway lunar orbiter, and the Artemis program for human lunar surface exploration. We will ensure duly rigorous selection processes while looking forward to identifying excellent talents suited to these purposes.

JAXA is promoting the wider usage of the ISS’s Japanese Experiment Module “Kibo” by the private sector, and developing functions and features aimed to increase the user convenience for conducting experiments and other activities. I will introduce one of such functions that have been launched recently.

The new function is to enhance the convenience of the IVA-replaceable Small Exposed Experiment Platform (i-SEEP), a hardware adapter for Kibo’s exposed facility (EF) that is designed to Install experimental payloads owned by private companies. i-SEEP supplies power as well as communication and other necessary capabilities to the installed equipment during the session. In the past, users of this item needed to be physically present at the related operation room in the Tsukuba Space Center to work with Kibo operation personnel.

In order to overcome the above limitation, the Remote Operation and Control Services (ROCS)has been developed to enable users to operate their payload equipment independently online from their offices, labs or other locations they choose. This represents the start of remote control operation of Kibo utilization projects.(Japanese only) In addition to increased locational freedom, the recent system also provides temporal flexibility, which can respond to users’ schedule-related needs and last minute changes in the project, an improvement in the user friendliness.

Going forward, we will strive to improve the operation environment for private business and other users of Kibo in response to their needs by building appropriate infrastructure and upgrading functions to expand usage, while listening to opinions and requests of many users.

3. Report on combustion test for H3 launch vehicle’s first stage engine

Regarding the issue found in the turbopump of the LE-9 engine, which is being developed as the first stage engine of the H3 launch vehicle, JAXA still continues to study a list of possible countermeasures, as I reported in last January.

We have decided on a shortlist for verification testing, and a blade vibration test was performed for the first candidate measure on two days, March 23(Japanese only) and 30(Japanese only), separately in the Tanegashima Space Center.

The two tests provided a certain level of necessary data, which are currently under detailed evaluation while the test components are being inspected at the same time.

Upon completing the inspection of the test components. We will move to the next step where a blade vibration test will be performed to verify the second candidate. We have started to prepare for the next test, which is scheduled for May.

4. Introduction of new workstyle

JAXA recognizes the importance of creating an environment where individual persons can fulfill their potential at work, in order to be an entity that can offer new value to society. Based on this recognition, we are committed to improving the working environment to assist employees and partners to improve their work-life balance.

In line with this commitment, we have begun to accelerate the workstyle reform by leveraging experience related to control measures against COVID-19, such as remote work options. We started by launching the New Workstyle Project 1 in October 2021, introducing a range of advanced workstyle systems.

They were chiefly to: remove restrictions on the frequency and place of teleworking; ease requirements for using flexible work options; and abolish organizational simultaneous break time. The project has helped significantly improve the flexibility for working in terms of time and location.

As a result, the overall teleworking rate had reached 50% on average and remained at about the same level over months before the New Workstyle Project 2 was launched in April 2022. In the New Workstyle Project 2, the previous method of paying expenses equivalent to the price of the commuter pass will be changed to a new payment method according to the number of days of attendance in principle. In addition, a teleworking allowance program has been newly created, in an effort to encourage the use of remote work options.

These workstyle reform initiatives represent pioneering efforts in the government sector, and our recent work systems compare well with those of advanced private companies. We are receiving inquiries about these efforts from many organizations.

These new systems will help employees balance work-life issues more effectively at JAXA, where a lot of research and development activities are carried out, ranging from basic studies to huge projects, in a wide variety of fields. By introducing these new systems each personnel will be able to pursue career and personal goals at once, according to their job type and work responsibilities as well as a series of private life events and life stage-related needs, ranging from childbirth and parenting, family care, long-term medical treatment, recurrent education and other self-development activities to running a sideline business, including a start-up.

Environmental development to allow better work-life balance across the entire organization will not only contribute to female empowerment but also workforce diversity.

We will continue with our efforts to improve the workplace environment and work systems to enable our employees and partners to thrive better.

5. Initiatives for the SDGs

JAXA has set forth action policies related to the SDGs and decided to appoint the Vice President in charge in order to enhance contribution to achieving the SDGs through its research and development activities in the aerospace field.

From the past, JAXA has been actively promoting various efforts to contribute to achieving the SDGs through its activities in accordance with the policies of the Japanese government. Some of our projects, such as for Earth surface monitoring using data from Earth observation satellites, and drug discovery research in the Japanese Experiment Module “Kibo” and its application on the ground, were covered by the government’s SDGs Action Plan.

In particular, in recent years social activities directed at the SDGs have been accelerating rapidly, backed by a number of factors, such as considerable changes in lifestyles due to the COVID-19 pandemic, heightening international concerns over decarbonized society, and expanding ESG (environment, society and governance) investing driven by sustainability management going to the mainstream. In the private sector, many companies have begun to formulate the SDGs-oriented management strategies.

Noting this trend, we have decided to upgrade initiatives to achieve the SDGs through our activities, taking advantage of strong organizational capabilities to undertake a broad range of projects from basic studies to development and operation. We are also planning to expand networks with many partners from the business, government and academic sectors as well as many other entities who will understand and share our plans and visions. Through promoting initiatives in the aerospace sector, we hope to be able to help accelerate global efforts to effect major changes essential to achieve the goals by 2030.

Vice President ISHII was appointed to be in charge of the SDGs promotion on April 1, 2022. He will provide detailed descriptions of JAXA’s related policies and initiatives.