Agency tasked with cutting costs and staff, reducing expenses and strengthening government-industry co-operation

The combined Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has begun operations, charged with reducing costs, increasing competitiveness and strengthening government-industry co-operation. JAXA brings together Japan's National Space Development Agency (NASDA), National Aerospace Laboratory (NAL) and Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS). Initial goals include cutting the combined staff of 1,800 people and reducing expenses by 1% a year.

High on JAXA's priorities is development of a higher-capacity version of the H-IIA launch vehicle, capable of placing a 4t payload into geostationary transfer orbit. The uprated launcher is scheduled to fly in 2007. Japan has also unveiled plans to develop a next-generation launch vehicle (NGLV) with 10-20% greater lift capacity than the uprated H-IIA, but around half the launch cost of the current booster. First launch is planned within 10 years.

The H-IIA has flown five consecutive successful missions. The sixth launch, of a second pair of Japanese reconnaissance satellites, has been delayed until November at the earliest. The uprated booster will have the same LE7A cryogenic main engines, but with the first-stage diameter increased by 20%. The NGLV will have two cyrogenic stages, and a mix of strap-on boosters, but will have a simplified design and health-monitoring systems to increase reliability to more than 99%.

JAXA is headed by Shuichiro Yamanouchi, formerly NASDA president, and is headquartered at the former NAL head office in Tokyo. The new agency has four divisions covering the three organisations' previous responsibilities, plus an office tasked with promoting co-operation with industry and the academic community. The office's goals include transferring technology to industry. JAXA has requested a ¥200 billion ($1.8 billion) budget for fiscal year 2004.

Near-term space missions include a lunar penetrator mission, Lunar-A, to be launched next year; the Astro-E2 large x-ray telescope, due for early 2005 launch; a third solar physics satellite, Solar-B, to be launched in 2005; and the Selene lunar survey mission, also to be launched in 2005. The Advanced Land Observing Satellite is to be launched by H-IIA in FY2004, followed by the Winds wideband internet demonstration satellite in FY2005.

Source: Flight International