Tim Furniss/LONDON

JAPAN IS TO SCALE back its space programme, setting more realistic short-term goals, with less emphasis on long-term national manned-space-flight aspirations and more on unmanned satellites and planetary exploration.

The Government has endorsed a study, Fundamental Policy of Japan's Space Activities, which confirms the country's planned participation in the troubled international space station, the Alpha.

Work on the Alpha's almost-completed Japanese Experiment Module will use almost 20% of the $2.19 billion space budget in 1996-7 - a fall of more than $1 billion compared with two years ago, mainly because of the high costs of developing the indigenous H2 satellite launcher.

The study calls specifically for a 50% reduction in the cost of producing the H2. It costs $180 million to launch a satellite into geostationary orbit (GEO) on an H2 launcher, compared with Western commercial charges of less than $100 million.

A more powerful and less costly H2A is to be developed, to carry 4,000kg payloads into GEO for $85 million, using components purchased from other countries. Japan hopes that a cheaper H2A could capture some of the world launcher-market.

The unmanned Hope space-plane, which may be used to transport equipment to and from the Alpha, is allocated about $80 million, but aspirations for a larger manned space-plane, based on the Hope design, have been deflated by the Government.

The National Space Development Agency ($1.6 billion) and the Institute of Space and Astronautical Sciences ($211 million) will lead the development of a series of unmanned satellites and spacecraft, including the Comets communications-technology satellite and the Lunar A project, which will include a surface-penetrator craft.

Japan will pay Russia $1 million to fly a suite of national experiments on the Mir 1 space station. The experiments will be flown to the Mir on a Progress M tanker in October and return aboard a Soyuz TM in December.


Source: Flight International