JAXA: Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) literally "National Research and Development Agency on Aerospace Research and Development") is the Japanese national aerospace and space agency.

Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)

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. Its motto is One JAXA and its corporate slogan is Explore to Realize


Key Description:

Headquarters: Chofu, Tokyo, Japan

Annual Budget: 18,270 crores JPY ($1.71 billion, 2017)

Parent Organisation: Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology

Founded: 1 October 2003

Motto: One JAXA

Administrator: Hiroshi Yamakawa

Official Website: Japan Aerospace Agencies

Social Network: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram



JAXA Kibo, the largest module of the ISS.
On 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)
  • 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).

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.

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 the Cabinet.

Planning interplanetary research missions can take up to seven years, such as the ASTRO-E. 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 plans on using smaller, 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.



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

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) – Development of experimental equipment for rockets and satellites. Also administrative buildings.
  • Tanegashima Space Center – currently the launch site for the H-IIA and H-IIB rockets.
  • Tsukuba Space Center (TKSC) in Tsukuba. 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.
  • Uchinoura Space Center – currently the launch site for the Epsilon rocket.



JAXA uses the H-IIA (H "two" A) rocket from the former NASDA body and its variant H-IIB to launch engineering test satellites, weather satellites, etc. For science missions like X-ray astronomy, JAXA uses the Epsilon rocket. For experiments in the upper atmosphere JAXA uses the SS-520, S-520, and S-310 sounding rockets.


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:

HTV-1: As JAXA shifted away from international efforts beginning in 2005, plans are developing for independent space missions, such as a proposed crewed mission to the Moon.

2009 and Beyond: On 23 February 2008 JAXA launched the Wideband InterNetworking engineering test and Demonstration Satellite (WINDS), also called "KIZUNA." WINDS will facilitate experiments with faster Internet connections. The launch, using H-IIA launch vehicle 14, took place from the Tanegashima Space Center.

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

In the year 2009 JAXA plans to launch the first satellite of the Quasi Zenith Satellite System (QZSS), a subsystem of the global positioning system (GPS). Two others are expected to follow later. If successful, one satellite will be in a zenith position over Japan full-time. The QZSS mission is the last scheduled major independent mission for JAXA, as no major civilian projects were funded after that for now. The only exception is the IGS programme which will be continued beyond 2008. However it seems Japan is pressing forward now with the GCOM earth observation satellites as successors to the ADEOS missions. First launch is planned for 2010. In 2009 Japan also plans to launch a new version of the IGS with an improved resolution of 60 cm.

Launch Schedule: The maiden flight of the H-IIB and the HTV occurred in 1 September 2009. After the first flight, one HTV launch is scheduled during each FY until 2019. (If not mentioned otherwise launch vehicle for the following missions is the H-IIA.)

FY 2019

  • Optical Data Relay satellite
  • Advanced Optical satellite
  • Nano-JASMINE

FY 2020

  • Advanced Radar Satellite
  • QZS-1 Successor)

FY 2021

  • SLIM, pinpoint lunar lander
  • HTV-X

FY 2022

  • DESTINY+, small-scale technology demonstrator which will also conduct scientific observation of asteroid 3200
  • Phaethon (LV: Epsilon)
  • IGS-7 (Radar)
  • GOSAT-3

FY 2023

  • QZS-5
  • QZS-6
  • QZS-7
  • IGS-8 (Opitcal)
  • IGS-8 (Radar)

FY 2024

  • MMX, remote sensing of Deimos, sample return from

FY 2025

  • IGS-9 (Opitcal)

FY 2026

  • LiteBIRD, a mission to study CMB B-mode polarization and cosmic inflation based at L2
  • Small-JASMINE (LV: Epsilon)

FY 2028

  • Comet Interceptor (ESA led mission, Japan provides one of the secondary spacecrafts)


Other Missions:

For the 2022 ESA EarthCARE mission, JAXA will provide the radar system on the satellite. JAXA will provide the Auroral Electron Sensor (AES) for the Taiwanese FORMOSAT-5.

  • 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
  • JASMINE, a series of astrometric telescopes similar to the Gaia mission but operating in the infra-red (2.2 µm) and specifically targeting the Galactic plane and centre, where Gaia's results are impaired by dust absorption.
  • 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, 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
  • EUVST, solar observation
  • B-DECIGO, gravity wave observation test mission
  • SELENE-R, a Moon-landing 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


Human Space Program:

Japan has ten astronauts but has not yet developed its own crewed spacecraft and is not currently developing one officially. A potentially crewed space shuttle-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 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 Kibo 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 Kibo to ISS.

JAXA - Japan Sapace Agencies
JAXA plans for heavenly views from broadcast studio on the ISS

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

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.

On 18 October 2017, Japanese discovery of a "tunnel" under the surface of the Moon has led to press-release. The tunnel seems 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.

In 2015 JAXA performed tests aimed at reducing the effects of super sonic flight under the D-SEND program. 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.