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Short description: Japan's national air and space agency

Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency
Uchū Kōkū Kenkyū Kaihatsu Kikō
Jaxa logo.svg
Agency overview
AbbreviationJAXA (ジャクサ)
Formed1 October 2003; 20 years ago (2003-10-01)
Preceding agencies
TypeSpace agency
JurisdictionGovernment of Japan
HeadquartersChōfu, Tokyo, Japan
MottoOne JAXA
AdministratorHiroshi Yamakawa (space engineer) (ja)
Primary spaceportTanegashima Space Center
OwnerMinistry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (Government of Japan)
Annual budgetTemplate:JP¥ (FY2021)[1]

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) (国立研究開発法人宇宙航空研究開発機構, Kokuritsu-kenkyū-kaihatsu-hōjin Uchū Kōkū Kenkyū Kaihatsu Kikō, lit. National Research and Development Agency Aerospace Research and Development Organisation) is the Japan national air and space agency. Through the merger of three previously independent organizations, JAXA was formed on 1 October 2003. JAXA is responsible for research, technology development and launch of satellites into orbit, and is involved in many more advanced missions such as asteroid exploration and possible human exploration of the Moon.[2] Its motto is One JAXA[3] and its corporate slogan is Explore to Realize (formerly Reaching for the skies, exploring space).[4]


JAXA Kibo, the largest module of the ISS

In 1 October 2003, three organizations were merged to form the new JAXA: Japan's Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS), the National Aerospace Laboratory of Japan (NAL), and National Space Development Agency of Japan (NASDA). JAXA was formed as an Independent Administrative Institution administered by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) and the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIC).[5]

Before the merger, ISAS was responsible for space and planetary research, while NAL was focused on aviation research. NASDA, which was founded on 1 October 1969, had developed rockets, satellites, and also built the Japanese Experiment Module. The old NASDA headquarters were located at the current site of the Tanegashima Space Center, on Tanegashima Island, 115 kilometers south of Kyūshū. NASDA also trained the Japanese astronauts who flew with the US Space Shuttles.[6]

The Basic Space Law was passed in 2008, and the jurisdictional authority of JAXA moved from MEXT to the Strategic Headquarters for Space Development (SHSD) in the Cabinet, led by the Prime Minister. In 2016, the National Space Policy Secretariat (NSPS) was set up by the Cabinet.[7]

Planning interplanetary research missions can take many years. Due to the lag time between these interplanetary events and mission planning time, opportunities to gain new knowledge about the cosmos might be lost. To prevent this, JAXA began commencing smaller and faster missions from 2010 onward.

In 2012, new legislation extended JAXA's remit from peaceful purposes only to include some military space development, such as missile early warning systems. Political control of JAXA passed from MEXT to the Prime Minister's Cabinet Office through a new Space Strategy Office.[8]


JAXA Headquarters (Chofu City, Tokyo)
Tsukuba Space Center Main Gate
Tanegashima Space Center (Kagoshima Prefecture)

JAXA is composed of the following organizations:

  • Space Technology Directorate I
  • Space Technology Directorate II
  • Human Spaceflight Technology Directorate
  • Research and Development Directorate
  • Aeronautical Technology Directorate
  • Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS)
  • Space Exploration Innovation Hub Center (TansaX)

JAXA has research centers in many locations in Japan, and some offices overseas. Its headquarters are in Chōfu, Tokyo. It also has

  • Earth Observation Research Center (EORC), Tokyo
  • Earth Observation Center (EOC) in Hatoyama, Saitama
  • Noshiro Testing Center (NTC) in Noshiro, Akita – Established in 1962. It carries out development and testing of rocket engines.
  • Sanriku Balloon Center (SBC) – Balloons have been launched from this site since 1971.
  • Kakuda Space Center (KSPC) in Kakuda, Miyagi – Leads the development of rocket engines. Works mainly with development of liquid-fuel engines.
  • Sagamihara Campus (ISAS) in Sagamihara, Kanagawa – Development of experimental equipment for rockets and satellites. Also administrative buildings.
  • Tanegashima Space Center in Tanegashima, Kagoshima – currently the launch site for the H-IIA and H3 rockets.
  • Tsukuba Space Center (TKSC) in Tsukuba, Ibaraki. This is the center of Japan's space network. It is involved in research and development of satellites and rockets, and tracking and controlling of satellites. It develops experimental equipment for the Japanese Experiment Module ("Kibo"). Training of astronauts also takes place here. For International Space Station operations, the Japanese Flight Control Team is located at the Space Station Integration & Promotion Center (SSIPC) in Tsukuba. SSIPC communicates regularly with ISS crewmembers via S-band audio.[9]
  • Uchinoura Space Center in Kimotsuki, Kagoshima – currently the launch site for the Epsilon rocket.


JAXA uses the H-IIA (H "two" A) rocket from the former NASDA body as a medium-lift launch vehicle. JAXA has also developed a new medium-lift vehicle H3. For smaller launch needs, JAXA uses the Epsilon rocket. For experiments in the upper atmosphere JAXA uses the SS-520, S-520, and S-310 sounding rockets.

Historical, nowadays retired, JAXA orbital rockets are as follows: Mu rocket family (M-V) and H-IIB.

Communication ground stations for interplanetary spacecraft

  • Usuda Deep Space Center (UDSC) is a spacecraft tracking station in Saku, Nagano (originally in Usuda, Nagano; Usuda merged into Saku in 2005), the first deep-space antenna constructed with beam-waveguide technology, and for many years, Japan's only ground station for communication with interplanetary spacecraft in deep space. Opening in 1984, the 64 meter antenna, built by Mitsubishi Electric, primarily operated in the X- and S-band frequencies.[10][11] Upon completion in 2021, MDSS succeeded UDSC as the primary antenna for JAXA's Deep Space Network.
  • Misasa Deep Space Station (MDSS), also in Saku, Nagano (and just over one kilometer northwest from UDSC), also known as GREAT (Ground Station for Deep Space Exploration and Telecommunication) was completed in 2021 at a cost of over ten billion Yen.[12] It is equipped with a 54 meter dish, also built by Mitsubishi Electric,[13] communicating with spacecraft in the X- and Ka-band frequencies.[14] Phase 2 (GREAT2) to improve performance and reliability, in support of future projects, over the previous phase is now in progress.[15][16]
  • Other tracking stations in Okinawa, Masuda, and Katsuura are for satellite tracking and control.[17]

Collaborating with other space agencies:

Previously, JAXA has worked closely with other space agencies in support of their respective deep space projects. Notably, in 2015 NASA's Deep Space Network provided communication and tracking services to the Akatsuki Venus probe through its 34 meter antennas.[18] In October 2021, JAXA provided NASA with data it had received at Misasa from Juno during its flyby of Jupiter's moon Europa.[19]

As part of on-going joint support of deep space missions JAXA, ESA, and NASA are engaged in an effort to improve the X/Ka celestial reference frame as well as a unified X/Ka terrestrial frame to be shared by the three agencies. The 54 meter dish at MDSS enhances X/Ka sensitivity from having an aperture area two and a half times larger than the equivalent antennas in the NASA and ESA network. MDSS improves the network geometry with the first direct north-south baseline (Japan-Australia) in the X/Ka VLBI network, thereby providing four new baselines which will provide optimal geometry for improving declinations.[20]


Prior to the establishment of JAXA, ISAS had been most successful in its space program in the field of X-ray astronomy during the 1980s and 1990s. Another successful area for Japan has been Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI) with the HALCA mission. Additional success was achieved with solar observation and research of the magnetosphere, among other areas.

NASDA was mostly active in the field of communication satellite technology. However, since the satellite market of Japan is completely open, the first time a Japanese company won a contract for a civilian communication satellite was in 2005. Another prime focus of the NASDA body is Earth climate observation.

JAXA was awarded the Space Foundation's John L. "Jack" Swigert Jr., Award for Space Exploration in 2008.[21]

Launch development

H-IIA F19 launch

Japan launched its first satellite, Ohsumi, in 1970, using ISAS' L-4S rocket. Prior to the merger, ISAS used small solid-fueled launch vehicles, while NASDA developed larger liquid-fueled launchers. In the beginning, NASDA used licensed American models. The first model of liquid-fuelled launch vehicle indigenously developed in Japan was the H-II, introduced in 1994. However, at the end of the 1990s, with two H-II launch failures, Japanese rocket technology began to face criticism.[22]

Japan's first space mission under JAXA, an H-IIA rocket launch on 29 November 2003, ended in failure due to stress problems. After a 15-month hiatus, JAXA performed a successful launch of an H-IIA rocket from Tanegashima Space Center, placing a satellite into orbit on 26 February 2005.

On 10 September 2009, the first H-IIB rocket was successfully launched, delivering the HTV-1 freighter to resupply the International Space Station.[23]

To be able to launch smaller mission on JAXA developed a new solid-fueled rocket, the Epsilon as a replacement to the retired M-V. The maiden flight successfully happened in 2013. So far, the rocket has flown six times with one launch failure.

In January 2017, JAXA attempted and failed to put a miniature satellite into orbit atop one of its SS520 series rockets.[24] A second attempt on 2 February 2018 was successful, putting a four kilogram CubeSat into Earth orbit. The rocket, known as the SS-520-5, is the world's smallest orbital launcher.[25]

In January 2021, JAXA shipped an H3 rocket to Tanegashima Space Center to begin launch trials, in an effort to phase out and replace the H-IIA series.[26] The H3's first flight took place in March 2023; the flight was unfortunately a failure.

Lunar and interplanetary missions

Japan's first missions beyond Earth orbit were the 1985 Halley's comet observation spacecraft Sakigake (MS-T5) and Suisei (PLANET-A). To prepare for future missions, ISAS tested Earth swing by orbits with the Hiten lunar mission in 1990. The first Japanese interplanetary mission was the Mars Orbiter Nozomi (PLANET-B), which was launched in 1998. It passed Mars in 2003, but failed to reach Mars orbit due to maneuvering systems failures earlier in the mission. Currently interplanetary missions remain at the ISAS group under the JAXA umbrella. However, for FY 2008 JAXA is planning to set up an independent working group within the organization. New head for this group will be Hayabusa project manager Kawaguchi.[27][needs update]

Active Missions: PLANET-C, IKAROS, Hayabusa2, BepiColombo, SLIM, LEV-1, LEV-2
Under Development: MMX, DESTINY+
Cancelled: LUNAR-A

Small body exploration: Hayabusa mission


On 9 May 2003, Hayabusa (meaning Peregrine falcon), was launched from an M-V rocket. The goal of the mission was to collect samples from a small near-Earth asteroid named 25143 Itokawa. The craft rendezvoused with the asteroid in September 2005. It was confirmed that the spacecraft successfully landed on the asteroid in November 2005, after some initial confusion regarding the incoming data. Hayabusa returned to Earth with samples from the asteroid on 13 June 2010.

Lunar exploration

Main page: Astronomy:Japanese Lunar Exploration Program

After Hiten in 1990, JAXA planned a lunar penetrator mission called LUNAR-A but after delays due to technical problems, the project was terminated in January 2007. The seismometer penetrator design for LUNAR-A may be reused in a future mission.

On 14 September 2007, JAXA succeeded in launching the lunar orbit explorer Kaguya, also known as SELENE (costing 55 billion yen including launch vehicle), the largest such mission since the Apollo program, on an H-2A rocket. Its mission is to gather data on the Moon's origin and evolution. It entered lunar orbit on 4 October 2007.[28][29] After 1 year and 8 months it impacted the lunar surface on 10 June 2009 at 18:25 UTC.

JAXA launched its first lunar surface mission SLIM (Smart Lander for Investigating Moon) in 2023. It successfully soft landed on 19 January 2024 at 15:20 UTC, making Japan the 5th country to do so.[30][31] Though it landed successfully, its in wrong attitude,[32] because the solar panels are oriented westwards facing opposite the Sun at the start of lunar day, thereby failing to generate enough power. The lander operated on internal battery power, which was fully drained that day. The mission's operators hope that the lander will wake up after a few days when sunlight should hit the solar panels.[33]

Irrespective of this solar array issue on lander, the two LEV 1 and 2 rovers, deployed during hovering just before final landing are working as expected and LEV-1 communicating independently to the ground stations.[33] LEV-1 conducted six hops on lunar surface. Images taken by LEV-2 show the wrong attitude landing with loss of an engine nozzle during descent and even possible sustained damage to lander's Earth bound antenna, that is not pointed towards Earth.[34] Irrespective of wrong attitude and loss of communication with the lander, the mission is already fully successful after confirmation of its primary goal landing within 100 m (330 ft) of its landing spot was already achieved.[35][36][37]

Planetary exploration

Japan's planetary missions have so far been limited to the inner Solar System, and emphasis has been put on magnetospheric and atmospheric research. The Mars explorer Nozomi (PLANET-B), which ISAS launched prior to the merger of the three aerospace institutes, became one of the earliest difficulties the newly formed JAXA faced. Nozomi ultimately passed 1,000 km from the surface of Mars. On 20 May 2010, the Venus Climate Orbiter Akatsuki (PLANET-C) and IKAROS solar sail demonstrator was launched by a H-2A launch vehicle.

On 7 December 2010, Akatsuki was unable to complete its Venus orbit insertion maneuver. Akatsuki finally entered Venus orbit on 7 December 2015, making it the first Japanese spacecraft to orbit another planet, sixteen years after the originally planned orbital insertion of Nozomi. One of Akatsuki's main goal is to uncover the mechanism behind Venus atmosphere's super-rotation, a phenomenon in which the cloud top winds in the troposphere circulates around the planet faster than the speed that Venus itself rotates. A thorough explanation for this phenomenon has yet been found.

JAXA/ISAS was part of the international Laplace Jupiter mission proposal from its foundation. A Japanese contribution was sought in the form of an independent orbiter to research Jupiter's magnetosphere, JMO (Jupiter Magnetospheric Orbiter). Although JMO never left the conception phase, ISAS scientists will see their instruments reaching Jupiter on the ESA-led JUICE (Jupiter Icy Moon Explorer) mission. JUICE is a reformulation of the ESA Ganymede orbiter from the Laplace project. JAXA's contribution includes providing components of the RPWI (Radio & Plasma Wave Investigation), PEP (Particle Environment Package), GALA (GAnymede Laser Altimeter) instruments.

JAXA is reviewing a new spacecraft mission to the Martian system; a sample return mission to Phobos called MMX (Martian Moons Explorer).[38][39] First revealed on 9 June 2015, MMX's primary goal is to determine the origin of the Martian moons.[40] Alongside collecting samples from Phobos, MMX will perform remote sensing of Deimos, and may also observe the atmosphere of Mars as well.[41] As of December 2023, MMX is to be launched in fiscal year 2026.[42]

Solar sail research

On 9 August 2004, ISAS successfully deployed two prototype solar sails from a sounding rocket. A clover-type sail was deployed at 122 km altitude and a fan type sail was deployed at 169 km altitude. Both sails used 7.5 micrometer-thick film.

ISAS tested a solar sail again as a sub-payload to the Akari (ASTRO-F) mission on 22 February 2006. However the solar sail did not deploy fully. ISAS tested a solar sail again as a sub payload of the SOLAR-B launch at 23 September 2006, but contact with the probe was lost. The IKAROS solar sail was launched on 21 May 2010. The solar sail deployed successfully. The goal is to have a solar sail mission to Jupiter after 2020.

Astronomy program

The first Japanese astronomy mission was the X-ray satellite Hakucho (CORSA-b), which was launched in 1979. Later ISAS moved into solar observation, radio astronomy through space VLBI and infrared astronomy.

Under Development:
Cancelled(C)/Failed(F): ASTRO-E (F), ASTRO-G (C),

Infrared astronomy


Japan's infrared astronomy began with the 15-cm IRTS telescope which was part of the SFU multipurpose satellite in 1995. ISAS also gave ground support for the ESA Infrared Space Observatory (ISO) infrared mission.

JAXA's first infrared astronomy satellite was the Akari spacecraft, with the pre-launch designation ASTRO-F. This satellite was launched on 21 February 2006. Its mission is infrared astronomy with a 68 cm telescope. This is the first all sky survey since the first infrared mission IRAS in 1983. (A 3.6 kg nanosatellite named CUTE-1.7 was also released from the same launch vehicle.)[43]

JAXA is also doing further R&D for increasing the performance of its mechanical coolers for its future infrared mission, SPICA. This would enable a warm launch without liquid helium. SPICA has the same size as the ESA Herschel Space Observatory mission, but is planned to have a temperature of just 4.5 K and will be much colder. Unlike Akari, which had a geocentric orbit, SPICA will be located at Sun–Earth L2. The launch is expected in 2027 or 2028 on JAXA's new H3 Launch Vehicle, however the mission is not yet fully funded. ESA and NASA may also each contribute an instrument.[44] The SPICA mission was cancelled in 2020.

X-ray astronomy

Starting from 1979 with Hakucho (CORSA-b), for nearly two decades Japan had achieved continuous observation. However, in the year 2000 the launch of ISAS's X-ray observation satellite, ASTRO-E failed (as it failed at launch it never received a proper name).

Then on 10 July 2005, JAXA was finally able to launch a new X-ray astronomy mission named Suzaku (ASTRO-EII). This launch was important for JAXA, because in the five years since the launch failure of the original ASTRO-E satellite, Japan was without an x-ray telescope. Three instruments were included in this satellite: an X-ray spectrometer (XRS), an X-ray imaging spectrometer (XIS), and a hard X-ray detector (HXD). However, the XRS was rendered inoperable due to a malfunction which caused the satellite to lose its supply of liquid helium.

The next JAXA x-ray mission is the Monitor of All-sky X-ray Image (MAXI). MAXI continuously monitors astronomical X-ray objects over a broad energy band (0.5 to 30 keV). MAXI is installed on the Japanese external module of the ISS.[45] On 17 February 2016, Hitomi (ASTRO-H) was launched as the successor to Suzaku, which completed its mission a year before.

Solar observation

Japan's solar astronomy started in the early 1980s with the launch of the Hinotori (ASTRO-A) X-ray mission. The Hinode (SOLAR-B) spacecraft, the follow-on to the joint Japan/US/UK Yohkoh (SOLAR-A) spacecraft, was launched on 23 September 2006 by JAXA.[46][47] A SOLAR-C can be expected sometime after 2020. However no details are worked out yet other than it will not be launched with the former ISAS's Mu rockets. Instead a H-2A from Tanegashima could launch it. As H-2A is more powerful, SOLAR-C could either be heavier or be stationed at L1 (Lagrange point 1).

Radio astronomy

In 1998, Japan launched the HALCA (MUSES-B) mission, the world's first spacecraft dedicated to conduct space VLBI observations of pulsars, among others. To do so, ISAS set up a ground network around the world through international cooperation. The observation part of the mission lasted until 2003 and the satellite was retired at the end of 2005. In FY 2006, Japan funded the ASTRO-G as the succeeding mission. ASTRO-G was canceled in 2011.

Communication, positioning and technology tests

One of the primary duties of the former NASDA body was the testing of new space technologies, mostly in the field of communication. The first test satellite was ETS-I, launched in 1975. However, during the 1990s, NASDA was afflicted by problems surrounding the ETS-VI and COMETS missions.

In February 2018, JAXA announced a research collaboration with Sony to test a laser communication system from the Kibo module in late 2018.[48]

Testing of communication technologies remains to be one of JAXA's key duties in cooperation with NICT.

Active Missions: INDEX, QZS-1, SLATS, QZS-2, QZS-3, QZS-4, QZS-1R
Under Development: ETS-IX

i-Space : ETS-VIII, WINDS and QZS-1

To upgrade Japan's communication technology the Japanese state launched the i-Space initiative with the ETS-VIII and WINDS missions.[49]

ETS-VIII was launched on 18 December 2006. The purpose of ETS-VIII is to test communication equipment with two very large antennas and an atomic clock test. On 26 December both antennas were successfully deployed. This was not unexpected, since JAXA tested the deployment mechanism before with the LDREX-2 Mission, which was launched on 14 October with the European Ariane 5. The test was successful.

On 23 February 2008, JAXA launched the Wideband InterNetworking engineering test and Demonstration Satellite (WINDS), also called "KIZUNA". WINDS aimed to facilitate experiments with faster satellite Internet connections. The launch, using H-IIA launch vehicle 14, took place from Tanegashima Space Center.[50] WINDS was decommissioned on 27 February 2019.[51]

On 11 September 2010, JAXA launched QZS-1 (Michibiki-1), the first satellite of the Quasi Zenith Satellite System (QZSS), a subsystem of the global positioning system (GPS). Three more followed in 2017, and a replacement for QZS-1 is scheduled to launch in late 2021. A next-generation set of three satellites, able to operate independent of GPS, is scheduled to begin launching in 2023.


On 24 August 2005, JAXA launched the experimental satellites OICETS and INDEX on a Ukrainian Dnepr rocket. OICETS (Kirari) is a mission tasked with testing optical links with the European Space Agency (ESA) ARTEMIS satellite, which is around 40,000 km away from OICETS. The experiment was successful on 9 December, when the link could be established. In March 2006, JAXA could establish with OICETS the worldwide first optical links between a LEO satellite and a ground station first in Japan and in June 2006 with a mobile station in Germany.

INDEX (Reimei) is a small 70 kg satellite for testing various equipment, and functions as an aurora observation mission as well. The Reimei satellite is currently in its extended mission phase.

Earth observation program

Japan's first Earth observation satellites were MOS-1a and MOS-1b launched in 1987 and 1990. During the 1990s, and the new millennium this NASDA program came under heavy fire, because both Adeos (Midori) and Adeos 2 (Midori 2) satellites failed after just ten months in orbit.

Active Missions: GOSAT, GCOM-W, ALOS-2, GCOM-C, GOSAT-2
Retired/Failed (R/F): ALOS (R), ALOS-3 (F)



In January 2006, JAXA successfully launched the Advanced Land Observation Satellite (ALOS/Daichi). Communication between ALOS and the ground station in Japan will be done through the Kodama Data Relay Satellite, which was launched during 2002. This project is under intense pressure due to the shorter than expected lifetime of the ADEOS II (Midori) Earth Observation Mission. For missions following Daichi, JAXA opted to separate it into a radar satellite (ALOS-2) and an optical satellite (ALOS-3). ALOS 2 SAR (Synthetic Aperture Radar) satellite was launched in May 2014. The ALOS 3 satellite was launched in March 2023. The satellite was lost in a launch failure.

Rainfall observation

Since Japan is an island nation and gets struck by typhoons every year, research about the dynamics of the atmosphere is a very important issue. For this reason Japan launched in 1997 the TRMM (Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission) satellite in cooperation with NASA, to observe the tropical rainfall seasons. For further research NASDA had launched the ADEOS and ADEOS II missions in 1996 and 2003. However, due to various reasons,[specify] both satellites had a much shorter than expected life term.

On 28 February 2014, a H-2A rocket launched the GPM Core Observatory, a satellite jointly developed by JAXA and NASA. The GPM mission is the successor to the TRMM mission, which by the time of the GPM launch had been noted as highly successful. JAXA provided the Global Precipitation Measurement/Dual-frequency Precipitation Radar (GPM/DPR) Instrument for this mission. Global Precipitation Measurement itself is a satellite constellation, whilst the GPM Core Observatory provides a new calibration standard for other satellites in the constellation. Other countries/agencies like France, India, ESA, etc. provides the sub-satellites. The aim of GPM is to measure global rainfall with unprecedented detail.

Monitoring of carbon dioxide

At the end of the 2008 fiscal year, JAXA launched the satellite GOSAT (Greenhouse Gas Observing SATellite) to help scientists determine and monitor the density distribution of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The satellite is being jointly developed by JAXA and Japan's Ministry of the Environment. JAXA is building the satellite while the Ministry is in charge of the data that will be collected. Since the number of ground-based carbon dioxide observatories cannot monitor enough of the world's atmosphere and are distributed unevenly throughout the globe, the GOSAT may be able to gather more accurate data and fill in the gaps on the globe where there are no observatories on the ground. Sensors for methane and other greenhouse gasses are also being considered for the satellite, although the plans are not yet finalized. The satellite weighs approximately 1650 kg and is expected to have a life span of five years.

The successor satellite GOSAT 2 was launched in October 2018.

GCOM series

The next funded Earth-observation mission after GOSAT is the GCOM (Global Change Observation Mission) Earth-observation program as a successor to ADEOS II (Midori) and the Aqua mission. To reduce the risk and for a longer observation time the mission will be split into smaller satellites. Altogether GCOM will be a series of six satellites. The first satellite, GCOM-W (Shizuku), was launched on 17 May 2012 with the H-IIA. The second satellite, GCOM-C (Shikisai), was launched in 2017.

Satellites for other agencies

For weather observation Japan launched in February 2005 the Multi-Functional Transport Satellite 1R (MTSAT-1R). The success of this launch was critical for Japan, since the original MTSAT-1 could not be put into orbit because of a launch failure with the H-2 rocket in 1999. Since then Japan relied for weather forecasting on an old satellite which was already beyond its useful life term and on American systems.

On 18 February 2006, JAXA, as head of the H-IIA at this time, successfully launched the MTSAT-2 aboard a H-2A rocket. MTSAT-2 is the backup to the MTSAT-1R. The MTSAT-2 uses the DS2000 satellite bus developed by Mitsubishi Electric.[52] The DS2000 is also used for the DRTS Kodama, ETS-VIII and the Superbird 7 communication satellite, making it the first commercial success for Japan.

As a secondary mission both the MTSAT-1R and MTSAT-2 help to direct air traffic.

Other JAXA satellites currently in use

  • GEOTAIL magnetosphere observation satellite (since 1992)
  • DRTS (Kodama) Data Relay Satellite, since 2002. (Projected Life Span is seven years)

Ongoing joint missions with NASA are the Aqua Earth Observation Satellite, and the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) Core satellite.JAXA also provided the Light Particle Telescope (LPT) for the 2008 Jason 2 satellite by the French CNES.

On 11 May 2018, JAXA deployed the first satellite developed in Kenya from the Japanese Experiment Module of the International Space Station.[53] The satellite, 1KUNS-PF, was created by the University of Nairobi.

Completed missions

  • ASTRO-H X-Ray Astronomy Mission 2016 (failed)
  • Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) 1997–2015 (decommissioned)
  • Akebono Aurora Observation 1989–2015 (decommissioned)
  • Suzaku X-Ray Astronomy 2005–2015 (decommissioned)
  • ALOS Earth Observation 2006–2011 (decommissioned)
  • Akari, Infrared astronomy mission 2006–2011 (decommissioned)
  • Hayabusa Asteroid sample return mission 2003–2010 (decommissioned)
  • OICETS, Technology Demonstration 2005–2009 (decommissioned)
  • SELENE, Moon probe 2007–2009 (decommissioned)
  • Micro Lab Sat 1, Small engineering mission, launched 2002 (decommissioned)
  • HALCA, Space VLBI 1997–2005 (decommissioned)
  • Nozomi, Mars Mission 1998–2003 (failed)
  • MDS-1, Technology Demonstration 2002–2003 (decommissioned)
  • ADEOS 2 (Midori 2) Earth Observation 2002–2003 (lost)

Future missions

Artist's concept of Japan's Martian Moons eXploration (MMX) spacecraft, planned for launch in 2024

Launch schedule

FY 2024

FY 2025

FY 2026

FY 2027

FY 2028

  • JASMINE: an astrometric telescope similar to the Gaia mission but operating in the infrared (2.2 µm) and specifically targeting the Galactic plane and center, where Gaia's results are impaired by dust absorption.
  • Solar-C EUVST[54][55][56]

FY 2029

FY 2031

FY 2032

Other missions

For the 2023 EarthCARE mission with ESA, JAXA will provide the radar system on the satellite. JAXA will provide the Auroral Electron Sensor (AES) for the Taiwanese FORMOSAT-5.[58]

  • XEUS: joint X-Ray telescope with ESA, originally planned for launch after 2015. Cancelled and replaced by ATHENA.


  • Human Lunar Systems, conceptual system study on the future human lunar outpost
  • OKEANOS, a mission to Jupiter and Trojan asteroids utilizing "hybrid propulsion" of solar sail and ion engines
  • SPICA, a 2.5 meter infrared telescope to be placed at L2
  • FORCE,[59] small-scale hard x-ray observation with high sensitivity
  • DIOS, small-scale x-ray observation mission to survey warm–hot intergalactic medium
  • APPROACH, small-scale lunar penetrator mission
  • HiZ-GUNDAM, small-scale gamma ray burst observation mission
  • B-DECIGO, gravity wave observation test mission
  • Hayabusa Mk2/Marco Polo
  • Space Solar Power System (SSPS), space-based solar power prototype launch in 2020, aiming for a full-power system in 2030[60]

Human spaceflight program

The Spacelab-J shuttle flight, funded by Japan, included several tons of Japanese science research equipment.

Japan has ten astronauts but has not yet developed its own crewed spacecraft and is not currently developing one officially. A potentially crewed spaceplane HOPE-X project launched by the conventional space launcher H-II was developed for several years (including test flights of HYFLEX/OREX prototypes) but was postponed. The simpler crewed capsule Fuji was proposed but not adopted. Projects for single-stage-to-orbit, horizontal takeoff reusable launch vehicle and landing ASSTS[citation needed] and the vertical takeoff and landing Kankoh-maru also exist but have not been adopted.

The first Japanese citizen to fly in space was Toyohiro Akiyama, a journalist sponsored by TBS, who flew on the Soviet Soyuz TM-11 in December 1990. He spent more than seven days in space on the Mir space station, in what the Soviets called their first commercial spaceflight which allowed them to earn $14 million.

Japan participates in US and international crewed space programs including flights of Japanese astronauts on Russian Soyuz spacecraft to the ISS. One Space Shuttle mission (STS-47) in September 1992 was partially funded by Japan. This flight included JAXA's first astronaut in space, Mamoru Mohri, as the Payload Specialist for the Spacelab-J, one of the European built Spacelab modules. This mission was also designated Japan.

A view of the completed Kibō module of the ISS

Three other NASA Space Shuttle missions (STS-123, STS-124, STS-127) in 2008–2009 delivered parts of the Japanese built spacelab-module Kibō to ISS.

Japanese plans for a crewed lunar landing were in development but were shelved in early 2010 due to budget constraints.[61]

In June 2014, Japan's science and technology ministry said it was considering a space mission to Mars. In a ministry paper it indicated uncrewed exploration, crewed missions to Mars and long-term settlement on the Moon were objectives, for which international cooperation and support was going to be sought.[62]

On 18 October 2017, JAXA discovered a "tunnel"-like lava tube under the surface of the Moon .[63][failed verification] The tunnel appears to be suitable as a location for a base of operations for peaceful crewed space missions, according to JAXA.

Supersonic aircraft development

Besides the H-IIA/B and Epsilon rockets, JAXA is also developing technology for a next-generation supersonic transport that could become the commercial replacement for the Concorde. The design goal of the project (working name Next Generation Supersonic Transport) is to develop a jet that can carry 300 passengers at Mach 2. A subscale model of the jet underwent aerodynamic testing in September and October 2005 in Australia.[64]

In 2015, JAXA performed tests aimed at reducing the effects of supersonic flight under the D-SEND program.[65] The economic success of such a project is still unclear, and as a consequence the project has been met with limited interest from Japanese aerospace companies like Mitsubishi Heavy Industries so far.[citation needed]

Reusable launch vehicles

See also

Note: This topic belongs to "Space" portal


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  39. "ISASニュース 2016.1 No.418" (in ja). Institute of Space and Astronautical Science. 22 January 2016. 
  40. Torishima, Shinya (19 June 2015). "JAXAの「火星の衛星からのサンプル・リターン」計画とは" (in ja). Mynavi News. 
  41. "高時間分解能観測がひらく火星ダスト・水循環の科学" (in ja). Center for Planetary Science. 28 August 2015. 
  42. "MMX – Martian Moons eXploration". Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. 26 December 2023. "The current schedule has a launch date in JFY 2026, followed by Martian orbit insertion in JFY 2027 and the spacecraft will return to Earth in JFY 2031." 
  43. Akari, NSSDCA
  44. "JAXA – Takao Nakagawa – Dramatic Birth and Death of Stars -". 
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  46. "National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ)". 
  47. "SSL Redirect... please wait". 
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  51. "超高速インターネット衛星「きずな」(WINDS)の運用終了について" [Regarding the end of operations for the ultra-high-speed Internet satellite KIZUNA (WINDS)] (Press release) (in 日本語). JAXA. 1 March 2019. Retrieved 30 April 2021.
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External links

Archived sites of the JAXA predecessor agencies: