Japanese Space Program Braces For Cuts

By Paul Kallender-Umezu
Source: Aerospace Daily & Defense Report

JAXA projects that fall short of the Basic Plan’s goals but are already funded for development will continue if it is counterproductive to stop them, Kunitomo says. These include launching the upcoming ALOS-2 land-observing system and the Global Precipitation Measurement/Dual-frequency Precipitation Radar satellites. The greenhouse-gases-focused Observing Satellite-2 (GOSAT-2) is also safe, as it is funded by the Environment Ministry, not JAXA.

But under a Feb. 25 budget plan drawn up by Kunitomo, several programs face harsh scrutiny, including the HTV-R sample return mission, any future launches of the HTV-R transfer vehicle beyond the current seven planned through 2016, the H-3, Moon exploration and all of JAXA’s follow-on environmental missions.

Harsh logic

The ONSP’s logic for re-auditing the HTV-R is harsh. As it is too expensive to commercialize, the H-2B will be ditched as dead once its HTV duties are finished. As the HTV’s only purpose is to service the International Space Station, and Japan must minimize its costs, then logically the HTV, HTV-R and H-2B have no future beyond 2016 and the HTV’s seventh flight. Indeed, one industry source tells Aviation Week that Japan may launch perhaps two, at most, post-2016 missions.

For JAXA, things get tougher. ONSP plans mandate that the agency’s now-low priority environmental monitoring programs undergo a “focus and re-selection process.” This means the proposed GCOM-C, EarthCARE cloud radar mission and ALOS-3 electro-optical missions — the second main plank of Japan’s flagship international cooperation programs with NASA and the European Space Agency — will fight for funding, and not all will make it, Kunitomo says. But he concedes a reconfigured ALOS-3 that can adapt to the Disaster Management Network at a fraction of its projected price tag would become more acceptable.

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