• Post category:Space Exploration
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We have discussed about the significant works done by NASA, ESA, Roscosmos, and ISRO. In this article, we will discuss about Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), its journey, and achievements.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is responsible for all civilian space activities in Japan, with activities ranging from basic space research to ongoing space missions.

JAXA was formed in 2003 after the merger of three government space organizations into one. Prior to JAXA, Japan pursued space through three different agencies:

  1. Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS) created in 1955
  2. National Aerospace Laboratory of Japan (NAL) created in 1955
  3. National Space Development Agency of Japan (NASDA) was formed in 1969.
Logo of Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency
Logo of Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency

ISAS focused on robotic space missions, including the PENCIL suborbital rocket launch in 1955 and the first satellite, OHSUMI, which launched in 1970. (The entity was previously known by other names, but was called ISAS after a research agreement was forged between Japanese universities in 1981.)

NAL (first called the National Aeronautical Laboratory) worked on rockets, aircraft, aerospace transportation, and related technology.

NASDA also performed work in satellites and launch vehicles and was the hub for Japan’s early astronaut program.

Japanese authorities elected to merge the three groups into one in 2003. The goal was to form “one independent administrative institution to be able to perform all their activities in the aerospace field as one organization, from basic research and development to utilization”.

It’s important to note that much of the work carried out by JAXA today originates from research performed at these three agencies. One example is the work on the ISS.

The Japanese Experiment Module Kibo laboratory and Exposed Facility are featured in this image photographed by a crew member on the International Space Station while Space Shuttle Endeavour (STS-127) remains docked with the station.
The Japanese Experiment Module Kibo laboratory and Exposed Facility are featured in this image photographed by a crew member on the International Space Station while Space Shuttle Endeavour (STS-127) remains docked with the station.

JAXA’s work on the station includes the Kibo research module (including a robotic arm), which is the largest single ISS module and is attached to the Harmony module. Additionally, JAXA launched regular cargo flights to ISS using the H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV).

Japan’s first astronaut selection took place in 1985 under NASDA, with three candidates selected: Mamoru Mohri, Chiaki Mukai, and Takao Doi. Mohri was the first one to fly into space, riding aboard STS-47 in 1992. The mission on space shuttle Endeavour included Spacelab-J, a scientific module that included numerous Japanese experiments.

H-II, H-IIA, H-IIB rockets of Japan
H-II, H-IIA, H-IIB rockets of Japan

Hayabusa is one of Japan’s most famous robotic missions. The spacecraft launched in 2003 and successfully arrived at the asteroid in September 2005. It deployed a lander, MINERVA, that was supposed to hop from place to place on the surface, but MINERVA never made it. Hayabusa itself made a successful landing in November 2005, attempted to scoop up material, and returned to Earth safely in 2010 after encountering many failures along the way (including two of its four ion engines).

An artist's rendering of Hayabusa above Itokawa's surface
An artist’s rendering of Hayabusa above Itokawa’s surface

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.

JAXA already has discovered and successfully accomplished a number of commercial projects via its space missions and will keep finding innovative ways to facilitate its commercial utilization. This will benefit all humanity as well as provide benefits to Japan.


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