Press Release

UTokyo and JAXA Partnership Agreement to Promote Kibo Use

April 26, 2018 (JST)

The University of Tokyo
National Research and Development Agency
Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)

The University of Tokyo (President: Makoto Gonokami, hereafter referred to as UTokyo) and JAXA (President: Hiroshi Yamakawa) concluded a partnership agreement to optimize the use of “Kibo, the Japanese experiment module of the International Space Station (ISS). This new partnership agreement is based on the umbrella agreement made in 2007 to promote cooperation between Utokyo and JAXA. The 2007 agreement resulted in organized exchanges of human resources as well as in research collaborations. The establishment of a Socio-information and Communication Studies course at one of the Graduate Schools of UTokyo is one such example.

The “Kibo Utilization Strategy” was initiated within JAXA in October 2016. Ever since, JAXA has been directing their effort to make “Kibo” a national research and development platform in space and to optimize the research results derived there. The Strategy has produced collaboration and partnership agreements with universities and private corporations. This cooperative framework realized the deployment of small satellites and experiments in the area of protein crystallization, which both took place in the “Kibo”. The initiative, therefore, has led to sustainable, effective utilization of the module.

To create further results, two objectives have been set under this UTokyo-JAXA partnership agreement, as shown in the three items listed below. The agreement is laid out in the manner that can cover any agenda yet to be devised.

(1) Small satellite deployment from “Kibo”

(2) In-orbit technical capability demonstration of the satellite instruments using the external platforms of “Kibo”

(3) Remote control, automation and autonomous operations of the manned space facility

((1) and (2) fall into the first collaboration objective: to develop and test cutting-edge technologies through “Kibo’s” external platform, and to contribute to international community. (3) is based on the second objective: to examine and to realize applications of robotics and artificial intelligence for remotely controlled, automated and autonomously operations of the ISS.)

The implementation of the agenda will combine the latest research and human resource development led by UTokyo and the scientific knowledge that JAXA has built through manned space missions. It is thus designed to bring about technological innovation and advance Japan’s contribution to international society. Drawing on the strengths of each other, UTokyo and JAXA intend to make the collaborative measure create unique inter-organizational synergy as well as optimize the research results from “Kibo” through its consistent, proactive management from the initiation of plans all the way to its implementation.

Plans are in place for the first sanctioned mission – co-producing a CubeSat with a Rwandan government organization and launching it from “Kibo”. The goal is the application of small satellite technology to benefit real life of those in emerging space-faring nations. Through the agreement, UTokyo and JAXA envision contributing to African community development. The mission involves controlling their water quality based on technology that the team of the Nakasuka & Funase Laboratory of UTokyo developed and tested.