JAXA giving NASA a run for the money on a shoe-string budget

JAXA’s mission are far more ambitious than its budget would suggest.

The agency has no manned missions and operated on 339 billion yen (four billion dollars) this fiscal year — less than one-tenth of the NASA budget, and less than half the annual cost of Europe’s space programme.

Space officials are now fighting back against any further government belt tightening as they plan a follow-up probe to Hayabusa in 2014, which would explore an asteroid named 1999JU3.

JAXA says it hopes its probe would find "organic or hydrated materials" on the asteroid, and to find out whether "there is any relation to life on Earth".

The science and technology minister, Yoshiaki Takagi, last month vowed that "we will strive to secure the budget so that we can offer maximum support" for the Hayabusa-2 project.

His ministry has requested a 100-fold boost to the research budget for Hayabusa-2 to some three billion yen next year.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan sounded sympathetic when he said last month that Japan "must be committed" to space projects.

In future the space agency may take on an even more ambitious task.

An expert panel advising the minister for space development has called for sending a wheeled robot to the Moon in five years — having first considered a two-legged humanoid, which was rejected because of the Moon’s bumpy surface.

It envisions building the first lunar base by 2020, which could be staffed by advanced robots, as a key stepping stone for Japan’s space exploration, a field where Asian competition is heating up.

"It is extremely important to probe the Moon… as we now see the dawn of ‘the Age of Great Voyages’ in the solar system," the panel said, pointing out that "China, India and other countries are aiming to probe the Moon."

The government’s Strategic Headquarters for Space Policy believes a successful space programme does much to lift Japan’s profile on Earth.

"Our country’s space technology, its achievements and human resources are truly diplomatic resources that would boost our influence and position in the international community," it said in a policy report.

"We will promote them as a source of our soft power."

via Japan’s low-cost space programme pushes the limits.

Japan’s solar-powered spacecraft IKAROS photographed in space

Japan’s solar-powered spacecraft IKAROS has been successfully photographed with its open silver space sail, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) said Wednesday. The 14-meter-square sail has ultrathin solar cells on film measuring 0.0075 millimeter thick. The cells trap sunlight to generate electricity to power its space flight while at the same time the craft uses photon propulsion. On one side of the film is vapor-deposited aluminum that reflects sunlight, which thus propels the craft.

JAXA unviels the Solar Sailing IKAROS spacecraft

The Japanese Space Agency has unveiled a prototype of what it says is the world’s first solar powered sail spacecraft.

It will be launched together with the country’s first Venus orbiter on May 18. There is also a campaign you can be a part of in this project. Look below for information on how to get your name and a message into space.

How it works:
IKAROS (Interplanetary Kite-craft Accelerated by Radiation Of the Sun) is a solar sail which gathers sunlight as propulsion by means of a large sail. This spacecraft will be launched in 2010 together with the Venus Climate Orbiter, “AKATSUKI”(PLANET-C), using the H-IIA launch vehicle. This will be the world’s first solar power sail craft employing both photon propulsion and thin film solar power generation during its interplanetary cruise.

IKAROS’s membrane is square, with a diagonal distance of 20m. The destination of the IKAROS is not specific but will be flown toward Venus.

Future Projects:
TPS is developing a spacecraft which is called “LightSail-1” that will sail around the earth revolving in orbit by the end of 2010. TPS, is one of the biggest organizations in the world promoting space exploration projects, outreach activities, and public information.

LightSail-1 is an ultra-light spacecraft with a mass of less than 5 kilograms. With a sail area of approximately 32 square meters, its goal is to fly in Earth orbit to demonstrate control and attitude in orbit and the ability to increase velocity utilizing sunlight pressure.

You can get your name and a message in space!
The collaborative message campaign held for JAXA’s “IKAROS” satellites and The Planetary Society’s “LightSail-1” mission has been extended until March 22, (Monday and a holiday in Japan for Vernal Equinox Day.)

The registered names and messages will be recorded either on an aluminum plate or DVD to be loaded onto the IKAROS spacecraft and travel through space toward orbit with Venus. Those who have not registered, don’t miss this opportunity!

Click here for more information and to register.