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Veteran Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata's long-duration stay on the International Space Station (ISS), which began March 17 when he transferred his Soyuz seat liner to the station's Russian lifeboat, kicks off an ambitious human spaceflight effort for Japan that could eventually see Japanese landers on the moon.

 

The key to Japan's plans for the human portion of its space program centers on the H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV), an autonomous cargo carrier scheduled to make its first flight to the ISS in September on an H-IIB rocket.

 

The 16.5-ton spacecraft was designed to deliver six tons of pressurized and unpressurized cargo to the ISS, primarily for the Kibo laboratory module and station logistics. But Kuniaki Shiraki, executive director of the human spaceflight program at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), said March 17 that JAXA is considering HTV upgrades as part of the agency's 10-year plan now in development.

 

 

HIItransfervehicle-JAXA.jpg

 

 

 

As a first step, Shiraki said, Japan would add the thermal protection systems needed to give the HTV a re-entry capability, filling in some of the "down-mass" capability that will be lost when the space shuttle fleet retires next year. JAXA engineers also are studying what it would take to human-rate HTV for the return, so it could act as a crew rescue vehicle. Beyond that, JAXA is considering adapting HTV technology to deliver cargo to the moon as one of Japan's contributions to an international exploration effort there. During a press briefing here in connection with the ongoing STS-119 shuttle mission that delivered Wakata to the ISS, Shiraki said that would include a Japanese lunar lander.

 

The Japanese government is currently developing a Cabinet-level 10-year space plan, which should be ready by the end of the summer, according to Yukihide Hayashi, the JAXA vice president. Originally the plan was to have been finished by the end of April, but Hayashi told reporters at Kennedy Space Center after Wakata launched on the space shuttle Discovery that the "process" of developing the plan is taking longer than anticipated.

 

In addition to JAXA, other agencies in Japan have a space role, including the Japanese military forces, and those interests must be resolved before the plan is complete. Uncertainty about how Japan will proceed in space is heightened by the likelihood of national elections this year, and the global economic crisis.

 

Regardless of the ultimate shape of Japanýýýs human spaceflight program, Wakata's arrival at the ISS as the first long-duration Japanese astronaut marks the culmination of JAXA's long participation as a partner to NASA on the orbiting laboratory, and the beginning of new activities.

 

"His stay on orbit will pave the way for the Japanese human spaceflight program from this first step," Shiraki said.

 

www.aviationweek.com

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Kaguya Moon Probe Impacts Surface

 

Jun 11, 2009

 

 

 

Kazuki Shiibashi/Tokyo aviationweek.com

 

 

kaguya-JAXA.jpg

 

 

 

Japan's Kaguya moon probe smashed into the lunar surface as planned at 3:25 am JST June 11, concluding a 21-month mission that began with launch on an H-IIA rocket from Tanagashima Space Center on Sept. 14, 2007.

 

The satellite crashed at 1.6 kilometers per second (3,600 mph) at an angle of 10 degrees on the southeast quadrant of the near side of the moon, near the Gill Crater at 80.4 degrees east longitude and 65.5 degrees south latitude.

 

"Everything went exactly as planned thanks to the detailed observation/operation data acquired by Kaguya itself," Project Manager Susumu Sasaki said.

 

"I was delighted at the point of impact, but now a couple hours later it's beginning to sink in," Sasaki continued. "I've been with the project for 14 years and it's almost as though I've lost a son. But I am also relieved it went so well." The mission previously was led by Project Manager Yoshisada Takizawa, who moved on to other administrative responsibilities last year.

 

Also known as the SELenological and ENgineering Explorer, or Selene, the probe began lowering its altitude in February, dropping from its 100-kilometer (60-mile) science orbit down to 50 kilometers (30 miles) to spend two months measuring the moon's magnetic field. Then in April the spacecraft descended to 10-30 kilometers for detailed observations of the lunar south pole.

 

Finally, at 2:36 am JST June 10, half an orbit before impact, Selene performed a 140-second thruster burn around the north pole, creating a small reverse thrust of 2.5 meters per second and setting the next predicted perigee at four kilometers below the lunar surface to ensure a crash. Sasaki said attitude control went better than expected and Kaguya's Laser Altimeter managed to measure down to around 400 meters (1,300 feet) before loss of signal.

 

Sasaki believes the 2,600-kilogram (5,730-pound) satellite would have only created a small crater five to ten meters wide and about a meter deep, and it would have been difficult to spot the rising debris cloud from the Earth. However he has received unconfirmed reports that ground observations were made. He says what observers saw was most likely the 40 kilograms of remaining hydrazine fuel burning at the point of impact, rather than the impact itself.

 

After entering its final science orbit in December 2007, Kaguya spent 10 months in its formal observation phase, followed by 7.5 months of extended operations, creating global topographic, gravitational and magnetic maps of the moon. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency says it is preparing to release most of the mission data worldwide over the internet on Nov. 1, and hopes this will aid further scientific research and understanding of the moon for future space missions.

 

Selene was Japan's second lunar probe. India's first lunar orbiter, Chandrayaan, is in orbit now, and NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter is set to blast off June 17. China's first lunar probe, Chang'e 1, was launched in 2007 and deorbited around the moon in March 2009.

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Resuscito questo vecchio post per segnalare che il Giappone si accinge a dare un successore ai suoi attuali vettori spaziali ....

 

"Mitsubishi maître d'œuvre du prochain lanceur japonais" .... http://www.air-cosmos.com/2014/03/25/21257-mitsubishi-maitre-d-uvre-du-prochain-lanceur-japonais

 

JAXA .... "Selection of Prime Contractor for Development and Launch Services of New National Flagship Launch Vehicle" .... http://www.jaxa.jp/press/2014/03/20140325_rocket_e.html

 

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