Introduction of Research
The Research and Development Directorate focuses on three pillars of research.
- Leading Research for Future : JAXA takes strategic, crosscutting approaches to research on technologies expected to be of key importance in the future. The Research and Development Directorate plays a pivotal role in promoting future-oriented research.
- Research for Secure Development and Success of Missions : JAXA promotes research on the improvement of common core technologies crucial to keeping Japan's aerospace industry competitive on the world scene. These common core technologies will also help JAXA solve challenging hurdles it faces in its own R&D projects.
- Providing space demonstration opportunity : JAXA explores opportunities to invite outstanding Japanese researchers to demonstrate their technologies in space and expand opportunities of space utilization.
Interconnecting the relevant features of these research pillars will yield better synergy and higher value-added outcomes.
Enhancing Japan's space transportation capabilities in the competitive international market
Our research focuses on improvements in the performance, reliability, safety, and cost of launch vehicles, to secure long-term independent access to space and offer more competitive launch services. We continue to research technologies commonly adopted in present flagship H-IIA/B and Epsilon rocket, as well as in the H3 rocket and the advanced Epsilon rocket now being developed. Other key topics include the next-generation reusable space transportation system and the liquefied natural gas (LNG) propulsion system.
Toward more competitive telecommunications satellites in the all-electric satellite age
Two improvements will be key to Japan's success in gaining a more competitive position in the global telecommunications satellite market: reduced satellite mass and a greater number of onboard transponders. Progress in these directions will improve both the cost and profitability of telecommunications satellites.
Conventional satellites with chemical propulsion systems have a payload mass ratio of about 20% (ratio of payload mass to the satellite mass at launch). We have been striving to increase the ratio to about 40% by adopting the satellite propulsion systems solely with Hall effect thrusters and designing lighter weight power systems and improving heat-rejection technologies as a means of reducinging total satellite mass.
The autonomous operation of satellites will also enhance Japan's competitive advantage by helping to reduce relevant costs.
Ensuring the safety of space missions now and in the future
The ever-increasing number of space junk which is referred as "space debris" or just "debris," could be a serious threat on humankind's use of outer space in the future.
JAXA has been examining key technologies including "active debris removal" and "design for demise" as a part of "Clean Space Program" in order to enhance Japanese contribution to sustaining useful outer space environment, in cooperation with the Japanese government and relevant organizations in the world.
Research on space exploration
It is very important for Japan to strengthen the basis of its exploration technologies, in order to maintain its position as a leading country in international exploration and for its own space exploration endeavors to the Moon and Mars.
We are conducting researchs to promote space exploration missions in the near future by exploiting advanced Japanese technologies.
Research on space-qualified parts
Space-qualified parts, which have capability of withstanding the space environment, are indispensable for the reliable operation of a satellite over a long period in space. We have been researching and developing space-qualified parts essential to satellite development with two objectives: maintaining independent space programs and placing Japan's future satellites in a more competitive position.
We take a long perspective approach to R&D on space-qualified parts. Our scientists work with research institutes and private sectors to identify promising domestic technologies and focus our resources on the development of parts that we expect to provide innovative, effective solutions for future satellite systems. We intend to better translate our research into practical outcomes at the earliest stage possible.
Satellite design innovations
We have been researching novel technologies that enable innovative satellite design that keeps Japan's satellites firmly ahead of the competition on the world scene.
One of our more challenging research topics in the satellite design innovations is a wireless technology that makes it possible to transfer data or power among satellite systems without cables. Internal wireless links are expected to create a new paradigm in satellite design and test processes. We have been striving to mature crucial wireless technologies for optimizing satellite system designs.
The other is a research related to the synthetic aperture radars (SARs) that have been equipped on Japanese Earth Observation Satellites "Fuyo-1" (JERS-1), "Daichi" (ALOS) and "Daichi-2" (ALOS). We have taken steady steps to improve JAXA's SAR capabilities and then propose innovative satellite systems by establishing onboard data process and appropriate information extraction technologies.
Research on the concepts and technology of space systems
A space system is a system of systems, consisting of many elements. It includes not only a launch vehicle and satellites but also ground segments such as the various ground facilities and installations. The mission success relies on the workings of the system as a whole, not on the discrete functions of its elements. In our research we will search for the most appropriate configuration of the elements in order to allocate a space system that will meet requirements for the system.
We will study various concepts of the space system, together with scientific expertise and technological capabilities in cooperation with internal and external bodies. Based on this study, we will propose a project that can pave the way to technologies that enhance Japan's competitiveness, provide solutions to societal challenges, and enable strategies to secure industrial growth in the decades to come.
Research on optical space communications technologies
The Japanese Data Relay System (JDRS) is being developed for the purpose of delivering larger volumes of data at higher transfer rates to users of Earth observation data.
Our research aims to reduce size and weight of optical communication instruments in order to readily provide optical data relay services to users, Earth observation data and others, and to improve the value of Earth observation satellites and other low earth orbit (LEO) satellites.
We have been researching a high-efficiency, high-power optical amplifier with a user data rate 2- to 4-fold higher than the 1.8 G bps data rate for JDRS. We also seek, over a longer timeframe, to transmit much more of the data collected during space exploration programs (e.g., at a data rate above 700 M bps for lunar exploration programs).
Research on core technologies for spacecraft (electrical power subsystems)
Among the technologies critical to spacecraft (satellites and other vehicles operated in space), our research focuses on core technologies required to operate spacecraft power subsystem more reliably. We have been striving to overcome challenging new obstacles to meet the requirements for future space missions while ensuring the secure, reliable implementation of our ongoing projects.
To improve the performance of spacecraft subsystems, we have researched ways to improve the technologies for spacecraft guidance navigation control, data transmission, and solar cells. We have also conducted the Space Environment Data Acquisition Mission to obtain the basic space environment data required for spacecraft development. We continue to use this basic data to research environmental effects on spacecraft in space, such as material degradation.
Research on core technologies for spacecraft (mechanical systems engineering)
Among the technologies critical to spacecraft (satellites and other vehicles operated in space), our research focuses on core technologies required to operate spacecraft mechanical systems and components more reliably. We have been striving to overcome challenging new obstacles to meet the requirements for future space missions while ensuring the secure, reliable implementation of our ongoing projects.
To reduce the weight of spacecraft subsystems, prolong the operating lives of spacecraft, improve spacecraft performance, and develop a "satellite-friendly" mechanical environment, research has been conducted on improved chemical and electric propulsion, technologies to measure and control micro-deformation and micro-vibration, technologies capable of reducing the impact of severe mechanical environmental conditions on spacecraft, lubrication in extreme environments, cryogenics, etc. We have also been researching a CO2 removal technology as a mainstay element of the life support systems during manned space flight, as well as a rover for robotic exploration. Both will be needed for future space missions.
Research on spacecraft life extension
The life extension of spacecraft implies prolonging the operating lives of spacecraft. A major prerequisite for this outcome will be that integrated spacecraft components and parts maintain their integrity without degrading or breaking apart. How reliable and durable they remain during their operating lifetimes will be key.
Our research aims to mature technologies capable of improving the durability of battery power sources, upgrading the reliability of the attitude control subsystem, and extending the design lifetime of mechanical parts to prolong the lifetime of the existing LEO satellites from 7 to 12 years.
Research on software, computational engineering, and verification technology
The objective of this research is to establish the systems engineering which balances mission success with reduction of development costs, by researching, development and utilization of the world's top-level information technology and computational engineering.
This will make possible a space mission that currently seems infeasible in terms of development costs and lead time.
As a first step, we will contribute to developing a new H3 rocket in an efficient and reliable manner. In parallel, we will research future satellites and reusable space transportation systems and support space projects with the use of previously developed technologies.
Research on earth observation sensor system
There are many types of sensors onboard Earth observation satellites. Spaceborne remote sensing instruments are broadly categorized according to the observation techniques they employ and the electromagnetic spectrums in which they operate (optical or microwave).
Utilizing comprehensive design engineering JAXA has acquired and accumulated for a sensor system, we have been researching key technologies and sensor systems expected to be required in the next decade or two. We have also been working with internal and external organizations to devise space missions that can fully benefit from the remote sensors to be developed in the future.
An ultimate goal is to translate our research findings into Operational Earth observation missions.
On-orbit demonstration of electrodynamic tether on the H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV) (Kounotori Integrated Tether Experiments (KITE))
To preserve the outer space environment for future generations, it is necessary to remove existing large pieces of space debris that can generate numerous debris by mutual collisions.
Electrodynamic tether (EDT), an advanced high-efficiency propulsion system, is a promising candidate to deorbit the debris objects at low cost.
JAXA plans to perform Kounotori Integrated Tether Experiments (KITE) in order to establish and demonstrate EDT technology and to obtain some EDT characteristics, such as tether deployment dynamics, and electron emission and collection in space plasma.
Research on SOI-ASIC
The use of an ASIC chip allows us to integrate the overall design into a single LSI circuit containing MPUs*1 and RAMs*2 and eliminate additional chips. With this design we can develop a smaller, lighter, more energy-efficient satellite.
SOI-ASIC will enable us to efficiently utilize the limited onboard resources available and meet the specifications for functionality, performance, and reliability required for probers, formation flight, small satellites, and large satellites.
We have been researching ways to improve the radiation performance and ensure a sustainable supply of circuits.
Research on the Space Solar Power Systems (SSPS)
The Space Solar Power Systems (SSPS) convert energy from solar rays to either microwave or laser energy and transmit it from space to Earth for energy consumers. The system has the potential to solve important challenges facing humanity in areas, such as energy, climate change, and environmental conversion.
To develop the SSPS, we have been researching technologies for wireless power transmission by microwave / laser, and the assembly of large-scale structures. In addition, we have studied the SSPS comprehensively, including strategic approaches to research and development.
Innovative satellite technology demonstration program
The program is designed to offer access to space for commercial and institutional entities who wish to demonstrate innovative and new critical space parts or key technologies in orbit using their own microsatellites. The orbital demonstration will enable them to acquire and accumulate new findings and create future space missions and projects.
The program seeks to perform orbital demonstrations of innovative and new critical parts or key technologies using microsatellites in a timely and affordable manner, in order to ensure the continuous availability of critical space parts and the like as called for in the Basic Plan for Space Policy of the Government of Japan.
We have been working toward two objectives: offering technology demonstration missions on the Epsilon rocket in around 2018 and providing regular access to space.