Japanese space program


Japanese space program
H-IIA F15 launching IBUKI.jpg
Launch of the Japanese rocket H-IIA
First flight12 April 1955 (Pencil Rocket)
Partial failures1

The Japanese space program (Japanese: 日本の宇宙開発) originated in the mid-1950s as a research group led by Hideo Itokawa at the University of Tokyo. The size of the rockets produced gradually increased from under 30 cm (12 in) at the start of the project, to over 15 m (49 ft) by the mid-1960s. The aim of the original research project was to launch a man-made satellite.

By the 1960s, two organizations, the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS) and the National Space Development Agency of Japan (NASDA), were developing their own rockets. After experiencing numerous failures in the 1990s and 2000s, ISAS and NASDA merged — along with the National Aerospace Laboratory of Japan (NAL) — to form the unified Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) in 2003.


Pencil rocket

After World War II, many aeronautical engineers lost their jobs as aircraft development was banned under the US Occupation of Japan. This changed following the San Francisco Peace Treaty in 1951, which once again allowed the development of aviation technology. The seven-year stagnation of Japan's aerospace industry had seriously harmed Japanese technical abilities.[1][2] To address this, Professor Hideo Itokawa of Tokyo University established an aviation research group at the Institute of Industrial Science at the University. That group succeeded in horizontally launching the Pencil Rocket on 12 April 1955 in Kokubunji, Tokyo. The rocket was 23 cm (9.1 in) long and had a diameter of 1.8 cm (0.71 in).[3][4]

The Pencil Rocket was the first experiment of its kind in Japan. Initially, the focus was on the development of rocket-powered aircraft, not space exploration. However, following Japan's participation in the International Geophysical Year, the focus of the rocket project shifted towards space engineering.[5]

Early development

Rocket birthplace monument

Iterations of the Pencil Rocket eventually increased in size to such a degree that experimentation within Kokubunji was deemed too dangerous. Therefore, the launch site was moved to Michikawa beach in Akita Prefecture.[6] Following the Pencil Rocket, the larger Baby Rocket was developed, which reached an altitude of 6 km (3.7 mi). After the Baby Rocket, two further rocket projects were carried out: a rockoon-type rocket launched from a balloon and a ground-launched rocket. The development of a rockoon turned out to be too difficult, and that experiment was eventually halted.[1][7] Among several versions of ground-launched rocket prototypes, the Kappa rocket was one of the most successful, gradually reaching higher altitudes. Due to inadequate funding, the rockets were handmade and the tracking radar was operated manually. Production was reliant on trial and error.

In 1958, the Kappa 6 rocket reached an altitude of 40 km (25 mi) and the collected data allowed Japan to participate in the International Geophysical Year. In 1960, the Kappa 8 rocket exceeded an altitude of 200 km (120 mi). The development of larger rockets necessitated a launch site with a large downrange. The old site in Akita Prefecture, which bordered the narrow Sea of Japan, was deemed insufficient for this purpose and a new launch site on the Pacific coast was created, this time at Uchinoura in Kagoshima Prefecture.

Launch of Ohsumi

First Japanese satellite "Ohsumi"

In the 1960s, Japanese space research and development was primarily focused on satellite delivery systems. A tentative plan was hatched to develop successors to the Kappa rockets, to be called Lambda rockets, for satellite delivery. The Science and Technology Agency subsequently focused its studies of Kappa launches on gathering technical information that would allow the new rockets to achieve higher altitudes.

In 1963, the government began a gradual increase in spending on space development. That year, the Science and Technology Agency restructured the National Aeronautical Laboratory (NAL) into the National Aerospace Laboratory. The new NAL was to be the center for research on space technology. However, it soon became clear that the NAL had insufficient resources to develop both aeronautical and space technology simultaneously. As a result, in 1964, the Science and Technology Agency was split, with NAL to work only on aviation technology, and a newly created Space Development Promotion Headquarters to handle space technology.[1]

In 1964, at the urging of Hideo Itokawa, the University of Tokyo established the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science.[8] Although development on the Lambda rockets proceeded slowly, there were incremental improvements over the next couple of years; such as the new capability to reach an altitude of 2,000 kilometres (1,200 mi), getting closer to that required for the launch of a satellite. At this time, however, political issues delayed development. There was, for instance, a controversy involving rocket guidance technologies, which some considered a military, not civilian, matter. Further aggravation was caused by the continued failure of the Lambda initiative, which lost four rockets in orbit.[1] The failure was reportedly caused by a shock (from the sudden combustion of residual fuel) resulting in parts colliding.

The first successful Japanese satellite launch occurred on 11 February 1970 with the launch of the Ohsumi by an unguided L-4S rocket No. 5.[9] The launch of Ohsumi was an important demonstration of technological cooperation with the United States, particularly in the development of high efficiency batteries that did not lose power at high temperatures.[10]

Successful development

Model of the cancelled indigenous four stage solid-propellant Q rocket[11]
Drawing of the partially indigenous N-I (rocket), based on Thor-Delta with MB-3 first stage engine[11]

In 1969, the Space Development Promotion Headquarters was reorganized as the National Space Development Agency, which was a separate agency from ISAS. Each of the agencies were developing their own rockets independently. NASDA, for example, was focused on rockets to launch larger satellites with practical and commercial applications, while ISAS launched smaller scientific satellites.

Sakigake Satellite

After the agency reorganization, Japan started to develop more precise rockets in the 1970s. Although the first M-4S rocket failed, the next versions of it succeeded in orbit, with three satellite aircraft eventually becoming the foundation of the Mu rocket family. Afterwards, the Mu rockets were changed from four stages to three stages to simplify the system, and enhancements were made to M-3C. All stages were able to work with the M-3S rockets, and this technology resulted in a string of successful satellite launches into orbit, reaching higher altitudes each time.

Engineering Test Satellite Tansei and many other scientific satellites were launched by these rockets. Atmospheric observation satellites such as Kyokko and Ohzora and X-ray astronomy satellites such as Hakucho and Hinotori were also active at this time. ISAS's development of the rocket M-3SII rocket reached its completion. The rocket was the first solid-propellant rocket of its kind, and left Earth's gravity carrying the Halley Armada satellites Sakigake and Suisei. M-3SII established the technology for the satellites that were being launched one after another.

The M-V rocket, a larger solid-propellant rocket, made an appearance in 1997. ISAS reported to the government that it would not be technically possible to increase the diameter of the rocket to more than 1.4m in the next 10 years. This was because NASDA had decided on this size and the National Assembly[clarification needed] had imposed further restrictions on top of it, making it difficult to increase the size.[12]

NASDA initially planned to develop its own indigenous solid-fuel launch vehicle known as the "Q rocket." However, because of the pressing need for practical and commercial rockets, the Japan-U.S. space agreement was signed and technology from the United States was introduced. Utilizing the American Delta rocket's first stage liquid fuel engine, Japan began the plan of installing the LE-3 during its second stage of development with liquid rockets. With that, the N-I rocket had been developed. However, the liquid rocket's orbital payload capacity was low, and the ability to manufacture satellites was not as strong as the United States's. Because of that, more technology was transferred from the United States in 1977 and the geostationary meteorological satellite Himawari 1 was launched using an American rocket.[13] The satellites Sakura and Yuri were later also launched by American rockets. The N-I rocket used technology acquired from manufacturing technology and management techniques only, but by frequently keeping records, NASDA gradually acquired more technology and the rate of satellite production in Japan has increased since the Himawari 2.

Since then, in order to meet the demands of larger satellites, NASDA started the development of the N-II rocket, the successor to the N-I rocket. The second stage changed to knock-down kit. The nearly 300 kg Himawari 2 was able to be put into geostationary orbit. These rockets made use of United States's Delta rocket's licensed production and the U.S. component's knockdown production, so the vehicles themselves were of high quality. However, when parts such as the satellite's apogee kick motor wore down, information on how to improve them was very difficult to obtain. Imported components from the United States were black box systems, which Japanese engineers were not allowed to inspect. Thus, it became necessary for Japan to independently develop the entire rocket, and domestic development had begun.[1] The newly developed H-I rocket made use of the liquid fuel LE-5 rocket engine in the second stage.[13] The LE-5 was characterized by its use of high-efficiency liquid hydrogen and oxygen propellant and the ability to re-ignite, which made it more capable than the N-II upper stage. The H-I rocket was able to launch objects exceeding 500 kg into geostationary orbit.

The rockets NASDA produced were used to launch many commercial satellites, the rapidly increasing number of communication satellites and broadcasting satellites, weather satellites, and so on. Nine H-I rockets were manufactured, all of which have been successfully launched. This was the first time Japan had successfully launched multiple satellites simultaneously.[13]

Japan did not develop the technology for manned space flight. Mamoru Mohri, in cooperation with NASA, was originally scheduled to be the first Japanese to go into space in 1990 but due to circumstances with the Shuttle, Toyohiro Akiyama, a civilian, became the first Japanese national to go into space aboard the Soyuz TM-11.[14] Mohri eventually flew on STS-47 in 1992.

Large-scale rockets and related challenges

M-V rocket launch rehearsal

After successfully developing the LE-5 rocket engine, and taking into account the technological progress made in Japan up to that point, NASDA decided to develop a new rocket model, which would exclusively make use of liquid fuel made in Japan in order to foster the new space technologies being researched in the country. Development of the rocket began in 1984, with the resulting H-II rocket being designed completely from scratch. Additional difficulties arose while aiming towards a complete domestically-produced first-stage engine, which would ultimately result in the LE-7 rocket engine, a bipropellant design functioning on combustion of high-pressure hydrogen and oxygen gas. Some of the problems brought about because of this propulsion system were, among others, parts damaging due to vibrations, concerns about the durability of the materials used, and explosions resulting from hydrogen leaks, all of which took quite some time to resolve. On the other hand, development of solid-propellant rocket boosters also started by taking advantage of solid-propellant rocket technologies that had enjoyed continued research at the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science. The launch of the first rocket employing this new technologies was to take place in 1994, after 10 years of development and only two years after the last launch of the H-I rocket. Scheduled to be launched on February 3, the sequence had to be put off by one day when an air conditioning duct attached to the rocket fairing fell from the launch pad. Consequently February 4 marked the launch of the first domestically-produced liquid H-II rocket.[1]

Also, in 1989 the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science made changes to the Space Exploration Policy Outline, enabling the development of large-scale rockets, with proper research into solid-propellant rockets starting in 1990, with rocket designs capable of delivering payloads for interplanetary exploration. Despite many delays caused by problems developing an engine for this type of rocket, the new M-V rocket was finally completed in 1997, two years after the final flight of the previous M-3SII model. From this point onward a period of inactivity for rocket research started to manifest, causing the launch of Nozomi, a mission intended to study Mars, to be posponed for two years.

Japan continued in this fashion to progress in developing new rockets, that is until 1990 when the USA trade policy "Section 301" came into effect, forcing Japan to submit its national satellites to international bidding. The capacity of the country to launch practical, application-oriented rockets was affected as well in several ways, mainly because of the influx US-made rockets which were more inexpensive to launch. Also, the high-cost of producing even a few domestic satellites, and the inability to compete with the lower prices of satellites mass-produced in the West, made it so that the successor to the Himawari 5 had to be purchased completely from America instead of being manufactured in Japan.[1] Many other types of spacecraft were launched from within country, for example environmental observation satellites such as Midori,[15] and astronomical or experimental spacecraft like HALCA, an activity which had great success overall. However, because of the predominance of commercial satellites being launched from overseas, to this date Japan still hasn't been able to accumulate a track-record of commercial launches of any kind.

The late 1990s and early 2000s presented many obstacles for the newly developed rockets. Both flight number 5 and 8 of the H-II rocket failed at launch, as well as the launch of the fourth M-V rocket.[13] Another notable situation was that of the Nozomi probe, which failed to enter Mars orbit. These failures along with recent administrative reforms prompted the government to propose a motion to integrate the several space agencies of the time into a single organization. In the process, a plan was set forward to strengthen cooperation between these organizations, emphasize functionality above all, and improve the efficacy of the organizational structure. During this time the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science issued an apology for the unsuccessful H-II launches, then proceeded to start the development of the rocket all over again, with special focus on the simplicity of the new design. The new model, denominated H-IIA, was launched successfully in 2001. Despite these new efforts made by all three space agencies, including NASDA, NAL, and ISAS, the organizations ended up being merged into what is today's Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), which was officially established on October 1, 2003.[16]

Present day

Hayabusa's return sparked quite a conversation.

H-IIA is a derivative of the earlier H-II rocket, substantially redesigned to improve reliability and minimize costs. Although this rocket failed shortly after launch integration, which will launch and many successful aircraft in 17 aircraft by September 18, 2010. To send larger payloads, such as equipment and supplies for the International Space Station, the H-IIB was developed. In order to launch small satellites easier and more cheaply than the M-V solid fuel rocket, a successor known as Epsilon was also developed.[17] These developments in Japan are pursuing the possibility of re-launching business.

Now a lot of satellites and experimental spacecraft to launch satellites in the country, became a strong technical capabilities in this field. Meteorological satellite Himawari 7 can reduce costs by using satellite bus that was used to Kiku 8, was able to launch a domestic weather satellite again. Has been launched plans to launch a small scientific satellite lot, this plan is to allow for rapid development of inexpensive, custom-made satellites aims to share some semi.[18]

On the other hand, 1998 after missile tests by North Korea in the past, has never been done spy satellites is done and now the launch of the basic space law in 2008 finalized, now is made military use of space for defense purposes only. And is currently doing in this area and although the Japanese reconnaissance satellite and missile defense only. Budget has been diverted out of scientific space exploration budget for these plans, which put pressure on other technologies.[19] Space budget from other political factors tend to decrease. In addition, some factions of the organization state that the former JAXA affect the budget allocation. These are contributes to dampen the history of the Japanese space development.

The biggest success in recent years Hayabusa said feedback. Made the primary purpose of engineering experiments is the spacecraft in 2003 Uchinoura Space Center from MV asteroid was launched by rocket asteroid After exploring the 2010 returned to Earth.[20] There was a problem during landing when the landing on Itokawa, which had been most likely unable to collect samples of the asteroid, which contains a sample of asteroids in the capsules were returned, by which the spacecraft World The spacecraft was first brought back samples from an asteroid.[21]

In June 2014, Japan's science and technology ministry said it was considering a space mission to Mars. In a ministry paper, it indicated unmanned exploration, manned missions to Mars, and long-term settlement on the Moon as objectives for which international cooperation and support was going to be sought.[22]


Japan's space development Institute of Industrial Science, the University of Tokyo, which began as a study group, and are based on the Engineering of Tokyo was the second aircraft before the war and developing sources I follow it. This study group in 1964 [Tokyo Institute of Aerospace] as an independent. In 1963, the State National Aerospace Laboratory launched, along with aircraft technology that it was done by National Aerospace Laboratory. 1969 NASDA was launched, Aerospace R & D technology exports grew from problems specific to science. Then in 1981, the Aerospace was reorganized and became the National Institute of Space and Astronautical Science. The momentum of reforms and administrative arrangements-government organizations held in the early 2000s (decade) from the 1990s, overlapping the failure of the launch rocket, a consistent these institutions are necessary to strengthen cooperation organization, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) was launched.[16][23] Currently, Japan's space development JAXA is responsible for one hand.


Defunct facilities

  • Akita Rocket Test Site
  • JAXAi


Rocket ranges

Japan's largest rocket range, the Tanegashima Space Center

There are two facilities in Japan with the ability to launch satellites: the Tanegashima Space Center and Uchinoura Space Center. NASDA liquid fuel rockets are launched from Tanegashima, while ISAS solid-propellant rockets are launched from Uchinoura.

In addition to the above two locations, there are other facilities used to launch test rockets.

Akita Rocket Test Site was used as a test launch facility by the University of Tokyo beginning in 1955. This test site was used for the last time in 1965 by the National Aerospace Laboratory, and now only a monument remains to commemorate the site.

The weather rocket station was established in April 1970 and was active until 21 March 2001. The MT-135P rocket was launched from there a total of 1,119 times. The site is currently used to observe air quality in the atmosphere.

The Niijima Test Range (Niijimashi Kenjo), located on the southern tip of Niijima Island, was established in March 1962 by the Technical Research and Development Institute of the Defense Agency. In 1963 the Ministry of Science and Technology rented the land and facilities from the Defense Agency and conducted rocket launch tests between 1963 and 1965.[24] It launched total of eighteen small rockets.[25] Because of the narrowness of the range, larger rockets were not suitable to be tested there. In 1969, the Defense Agency and local residents both opposed the newly formed Space Agency's project to build its own rocket test range at Niijima, and instead Tanegashima Space Center was built.[24]

Taiki Aerospace Research Field is a facility of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, which also provides them to private industry. Several tests of the CAMUI Rocket were launched from there between March 2002 and January 2003.[26]

In addition, Japan operates the Antarctic Showa Station. Between 1970 and 1985, rockets were launched by 54 groups for purposes such as ozone measurements and auroral observation.

Peaceful development

The Japanese space program has been developed for peaceful goals, completely separate from military technology. Therefore, the program's purposes are generally commercial or scientific.[citation needed]

According to JAXA's long-term vision, aerospace technology is to be used for:[27]

  • Natural disasters, support system for environmental issues
  • Planetary sciences, and technical research for the advancement of asteroid exploration
  • Improved reliability for stable transportation, related research and manned space activity
  • Key industries


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External links