International Space Exploration

JAXA Space Exploration

In addition to international cooperation, JAXA has actively participated in a space exploration program that aims to expand the realm of human activities to other celestial bodies in the solar system, starting with the moon.

With the completion of the International Space Station (ISS), space has become a new frontier for human life and endeavors. The ISS and the Japanese Kibo module have realized numerous achievements in diverse fields, including life science, space science, and technology development.

At the 2nd International Space Exploration Forum (ISEF2), hosted by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology on 3 March 2018, more than 40 senior government representatives and heads of space agencies gathered and declared the Tokyo Principles for International Space Exploration, which affirmed that space exploration is an important challenge for expanding the realm of human activity and should benefit all of humanity.

Under the common goals, JAXA will continue its efforts toward human and robotic space exploration.

International Space Exploration

Definition of International Space Exploration

International space exploration is defined as the exploration of other celestial bodies by humans from different nations working together and includes preceding robotic missions.

These destinations are far beyond low Earth orbit. JAXA is focusing mainly on the Moon and lunar orbits as well as Mars and its moons.

Objectives and Benefits

JAXA aims to expand human activities and gain knowledge through the exploration of outer space in collaboration with our international partners.

JAXA expects to achieve various benefits through space exploration, including the promotion of industry, technological innovation, encouraging younger generations, and international collaboration.

JAXA Space Exploration Scenarios

JAXA is continuing discussion on participation in US-proposed Lunar Orbital Platform -Gateway and sustainable human lunar surface exploration, contributing knowledge and technology gained from the ISS program and space science missions.

For the Gateway program, JAXA will engage in detailed technical deliberations of how we can make contributions based on our core competencies, including human space habitation technologies and resupply missions.

Regarding lunar surface activities, we are developing the Smart Lander for Investigating the Moon (SLIM), which will utilize data acquired from the lunar orbiter SELENE (Kaguya), and aim to demonstrate precision landing technology essential for future lunar and planetary exploration.
We are also planning the Lunar Polar Exploration Mission with the goal of a FY2023 launch. This mission will investigate the abundance of water and the possibilities for resource utilization in the lunar polar region.

JAXA, ESA, and CSA are collaborating on the HERACLES mission, whose goal is developing a large unmanned lunar lander to demonstrate key technologies needed for human exploration of the lunar surface. This mission will return lunar samples to Earth through the Gateway.

By applying lunar exploration techniques and discoveries, JAXA will conduct the Martian Moon Exploration (MMX) mission to return samples from one of the Martian Moons (Phobos or Dimos), with an aim to launch in 2024. JAXA identifies these missions as means of gaining scientific knowledge and expanding activities, and will continue to strive toward those goals in collaboration with international partners and industry.

Lunar Orbital Platform - Gateway

An international working team consisting of ISS partners is studying the NASA-proposed "Gateway," a cis-lunar platform concept.

During its assembly phase, Gateway will house up to four crewmembers, who will conduct approximately 30-day missions. The structure will be approximately one-sixth the size of the ISS.

The assembly is planned to completed in 2026 with the cooperation of international and industrial partners. Canada has announced that it will contribute to the Gateway, while Japan, Europe, and Russia are still considering.

The Gateway is proposed to be placed in a near-rectilinear halo orbit (NRHO) around the Moon. This orbit allows continuous communication with the Earth.
NRHO requires only 70% of the energy needed for a Low Lunar Orbit (LLO), and enables easy access to the LLO from the Earth, reducing transportation costs. NRHO furthermore provides a good long view of the lunar south pole, allowing service as a communication relay for south pole exploration.

Potential JAXA Contributions to Gateway

JAXA will engage in detailed technical deliberations of possible contributions, such as providing technologies and practices cultivated through the ISS program and H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV) resupply transportation missions.

We are presently exploring two potential contributions: Contribution to the International Habitation Module (I-HAB) in cooperation with ESA through the provision of JAXA's Environmental Control and Life Support System; contribution through the logistic resupply by the advanced HTV-X, which is currently under development.

Robotic Exploration of the Moon and Mars

JAXA is developing robotics exploration missions to demonstrate key technologies for future human space exploration.

Smart Lander for Investigating the Moon (SLIM)

  • Demonstration of pinpoint lunar landing technologies
  • Mass: 210 kg at the time of landing
  • Landing Accuracy: Up to 100m
  • Science Instruments: Multi-band camera for mineralogical characterization
  • Science Objectives: Characterization of rocks from deep interior

Lunar Polar Exploration Mission

  • Explore lunar polar region suitability for establishing a lunar base for sustainable activities
  • Obtain knowledge regarding availability of lunar water-ice resources
  • Demonstrate lunar and planetary surface exploration technologies such as vehicular transport and overnight survival.

Martian Moon Exploration (MMX)

  • Sample return from a Martian moon
  • Investigate the origins of Phobos and water in the primordial solar system
  • Investigate suitable areas for a future Martian base

Technical Study

Human Lunar Surface Exploration Precursor (HERACLES)

  • Small-scale international robotic exploration mission technologies for human landings
  • Technology demonstrations for lunar landings, surface exploration, and sample return

Study on Broad Lunar Surface Exploration

The Moon has only one-sixth the gravity of the Earth. Its terrain is full of craters, cliffs, and hills, and it is an ultrahigh vacuum environment exposed to high levels radiation and extreme temperatures.

Realizing broad human lunar surface exploration will require a pressurized rover capable of exploring over 10,000 km in that severe environment.

The following are our goals for the early 2030s:

  • Determine 5 candidate exploration areas
  • Operate two pressurized rovers (2029-2034)
  • Conduct a mission (42 Earth days; 2 lunar days, 1 lunar night)

Partnerships with the Industry

JAXA promotes collaboration with enterprises for sustainable lunar exploration. We also promote collaborations outside of space exploration by utilizing our Space Exploration Innovation Hub, which aims to encourage research and development among different types of businesses, and J-SPARC, which aims to create new private businesses.

Collaboration with Scientific Exploration

Cooperation with academia is a key to promoting international space exploration while utilizing knowledge and expertise gained through previous exploration activities. In this way, JAXA will continue to promote future space science.