Japanese space policy insights

The successful launch of a remote sensing satellite might not seem like the type of event to trigger reflections on national space policy. Yet, in Japan, the launch last week of the Advanced Land Observing Satellite (ALOS), or “Daichi”, generated some editorials expressing some optimism, yet also caution, about the Japanese space program. Both the Asahi Shimbun and Yomiuri Shimbun congratulated the Japanese space agency JAXA on the spacecraft’s launch and plans to use the spacecraft for disaster monitoring and related applications. Yet both expressed concern about the spacecraft’s size and complexity, citing the failures of less-complex earth observing spacecraft. Yomiuri Shimbun in particular hopes that Daichi “helps rebuild trust in Japan’s satellite technology.” That lack of confidence also extends to Japan’s launch vehicle program. Asahi Shimbun seems concerned about a couple of minor technical problems—hardly unusual for any launcher—that delayed the launch, calling them “worrisome”.

Taking a broader view, Yomiuri Shimbun notes that Daichi fits into a new JAXA philosophy that favors “utilizing the fruits of space development widely in people’s day-to-day life” over pure technology development. “[I]t is difficult to win people’s understanding of space development if it is solely for the purpose of technological development. We hope Daichi’s performance will make outer space more familiar to us.” Of course, it helps if this and upcoming missions—JAXA has two more launches planned in the next month—are successful, Asahi Shimbun argues. “If everything goes well, Japan will impress the rest of the world. It will show that it has hit its stride in space exploration technology again after a flurry of problems in its satellites and rockets in preceding years. Success must be achieved by all means.”

3 comments to Japanese space policy insights

  • Jeff

    Honestly, I’ve always felt quite sorry for the Japanese in regards to their space efforts. Why have they been plagued with such bad luck? All thos rocket failures, then the loss of their probe to Mars, and now the trouble with their asteroid probe. Let’s hope the gods smile on them a bit more in the future.

  • Brent

    I heard from someone that the new Japanese space policy includes references to an increased military space effort. Is this true, and where can I find a reference?


  • There has been some discussion of increased Japanese military space expenditure in AvWeek and / or Space News in the last couple of months, but I don’t have time to look up the exact references.

    On the larger question, the Japanese are exceedingly good at assembling consumer technologies. There are very few counties that have mastered the ability to do systems engineering involving thousands of people spread across a continent to develop intricate technocratic projects like Apollo — the United States, Russia, and parts of Europe are best at it. These are skills we developed in WW II and ICBM development, and mastered with Apollo, and so far Japan clearly does not have them.

    — Donald