Library Index » Science Encyclopedia » Part 2 Space Organizations: U.S. Military, Foreign, and Private - U.s. Military Space Programs, Space Agencies Around The World, Russia, Europe

Part 2 Space Organizations: U.S. Military, Foreign, and Private - Japan

jaxa launched hayabusa earth

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) was created on October 1, 2003, by merging the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS), the National Space Development Agency of Japan (NASDA), and the National Aerospace Laboratory of Japan (NAL). JAXA is headquartered in Tokyo and has more than a dozen field facilities across Japan.

The first Japanese satellite, Osumi, was launched into space on February 12, 1970, by a Lambda-4 rocket. Osumi remained in space for more than three decades and was destroyed in 2003, as it reentered Earth's atmosphere. It was the first of many satellites launched by the nation. Japanese launch vehicles for lightweight satellites are named after letters in the Greek alphabet. In 2001 a new heavy-lift rocket called the H-II became Japan's primary launch vehicle for heavier spacecraft. Two years later an H-II malfunctioned soon after lift-off and had to be destroyed, along with the two satellites it was carrying. A lengthy safety review followed the incident. The H-II was not used again until February 2005, when it successfully launched a weather satellite into space.

JAXA's major ongoing projects as of 2006 include the solar orbiter Nozomi, the asteroid sampler Hayabusa, and development of the Kibo laboratory module for the ISS. Nozomi (which means "hope" in English) was launched in 1998 by a Mu rocket and was to go into orbit around Mars in December 2003. An equipment failure prevented this from happening. Instead, JAXA was forced to put the spacecraft into a solar orbit.

Hayabusa (which means "falcon" in English) was launched in May 2003 by a Mu rocket to intercept the asteroid Itokawa. The asteroid orbits the sun between Earth and Mars and is about 2,300 feet by 1,000 feet in size. It is named after Dr. Hideo Itokawa, who is considered the founder of Japan's space program. The robotic explorer was designed to land on the asteroid, take a surface sample, and return to Earth by 2007. In November 2005 JAXA lost contact with the spaceship during the touchdown procedure. Although contact was regained after a few days, it is not known for sure if Hayabusa was able to collect dust particles. In December 2005 JAXA announced that thruster problems were going to delay Hayabusa's return to Earth until 2010. It is supposed to land in a desolate region of the Australian Outback.

The Kibo laboratory facility was originally supposed to be flown to the ISS in 2004 or 2005. It is a heavy component and must be transported by the space shuttle. Continuing problems with the space shuttle fleet have delayed the Kibo transport mission until 2008 or 2009.

JAXA also participates in a number of scientific satellite projects with international partners. Future Japanese space projects include missions to the moon, Venus, and Mercury. The SELenological and ENgineering Explorer (SELENE), a lunar orbiter, is scheduled to launch in 2007. The PLANET-C mission is planned for launch in 2008 and will put an orbiter around Venus a year later. Mercury orbiters are under development for a mission in the early 2010s.

Part 2 Space Organizations: U.S. Military, Foreign, and Private - Private Space Organizations [next] [back] Part 2 Space Organizations: U.S. Military, Foreign, and Private - China

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