Constellations, Launch, New Space and more…

Japanese Mission Focuses on Advanced Technologies

By Doug Messier
Parabolic Arc
January 29, 2019

RAPIS-1 satellite deployed in orbit. (Credit: JAXA)

JAXA’s recent launch of seven satellites aboard an Epsilon rocket was the first flight in a new program aimed at developing new technologies that will make the Japanese space sector more competitive.

The Innovative Technology Demonstration Program invited private companies, research institutions, universities and other groups to develop satellites and technologies within 13 selected areas.

This first launch featured a primary payload developed for JAXA by a private company, and three small satellites and three CubeSats provided by others.

One small satellite will attempt to demonstrate the ability to create artificial meteor showers for commercial use. There’s also a CubeSat that is testing a low-light camera for future use on satellites orbiting the moon. Other technologies being tested include advanced communications, propulsion, guidance and navigation and more.

Involving the Private Sector

For the first time, the Japanese space agency turned over development of one of its satellites to a startup. Axelspace Co. developed the Rapid Innovative payload demonstration Satellite 1 (RAPIS-1) for the agency is a short time period, going from design to launch in only about two years, the agency said.

The satellite bus features a standardized interface that made attaching instruments and equipment easier. The mission equipment and bus were independently designed to prevent failures of the former from affecting the latter, JAXA said.

RAPIS-1 is testing seven technologies as it orbits the Earth. These include:

X-band 2-3 Gpbs Downlink Communications
A rain-resistant, power saving low-priced X-band communications with extremely high frequency usage efficiency.

Proposer: Keio University
Partners: The University of Tokyo, ISAS/JAXA

Green Propellant Reaction Control System
A low-cost, low-toxicity reaction control system with high density and high specific impulse that improves satellite operations while consuming less power.

Proposer: Japan Space Systems
Partners: ISAS/JAXA

Thin Membrane Solar Array Paddle
A lightweight solar paddle system with thin-film triple-junction solar cells.

Proposer: JAXA
Partners: NEC Corporation, Sharp Corporation

NanoBridge Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA)
NanoBridge’s FPGA replaces configuration memory with a miniaturized system that features high immunity from radiation and low power consumption

Proposer: NEC Corporation

Space Particle Monitor
Small, lightweight radiation environment measurement equipment that uses low cost consumer parts that can be delivered quickly to small satellite builders

Proposer: Japan Space Systems

Innovative Deep Learning Altitude Sensor
Inexpensive, off the shelf star trackers and Earth cameras use simple artificial intelligence algorithm that can roughly recognize land usage and plant distribution. Image recognition results applied to demonstrate new three axis attitude determination method.

Proposer: Tokyo Institute of Technology
Partners: Amanogi Corp., The University of Tokyo, Wakasa Wan Energy Research Center

Miniature Space-borne GNSS Receiver
The world’s smallest and ultra-low power space capable GNSS receiver designed for nanosats with limited power and mass budgets

Proposer: Chubu University
Partner: SensorComm Co., Ltd.

Small Satellites

The three small satellites carried along with RAPIS-1 including the following:

ALE-1 (Man-made meteor shower Demonstration Satellite)

ALE-1 satellite undergoing fit test. (Credit: JAXA)

Objective is to demonstrate the feasibility of generating man-made meteor showers at specific locations and times for commercial purposes.

Proposer: ALE, Co., Ltd.
Partners: Tohoku University, Tokyo Metropolitan University, Nihon University, Kanagawa Institute of Technology
Weight: 68 kg (150 lb)
Dimensions: 60x60x80 cm (23.6×23.5×31.5 in)


MicroDragon satellite being tested. (Credit: JAXA)

Earth observation microsat for expanding satellite usage and overseas markets.

Proposer: Keio University
Partners: University of Tokyo, Tohoku University, Hokkaido University, Kyushu Institute of Technology, VNSC
Weight: 50.5 kg (111 lb)
Dimensions: 50x50x50 cm (19.7×19.7×19.7 in)

Rapid International Scientific Experiment Satellite (RISESAT)

RISESAT spacecraft in the clean room. (Credit: JAXA)

High-resolution, multi-spectrum Earth observations focused on the agriculture, fisheries and mining markets for expanding overseas satellite utilization communities.

Proposer: Tohoku University
Partners: Hokkaido University, National Institute of Information and Communications Technology, Tokyo University of Science, Fukui University of Technology, National Central University (Taiwan), National Cheng Kung University (Taiwan), Czech Technical University in Prague, Nakashimada Engineering Words, Ltd.
Weight: 59.3 kg (130.7 lb)
Dimensions: 50x50x50 cm (19.7×19.7×19.7 in)


The three CubeSats aboard the Epsilon booster included:

Aoba VELOX-IV (Lunar Exploration Technology Demonstration Satellite)

Aoba VELOX-IV satellite in the clean room. (Credit: JAXA)

Demonstration of attitude/orbit control and low-light camera for lunar horizon glow observation. Will take Earth-rim and Earth night images. Orbital control using a pulse plasma thruster.

Proposer: Kyushu Institute of Technology
Partners: Nanyang Technology University (NTU), National Cheng Kung University (NCKU)
Weight: 2.6 kg (5.7 lb)
Dimensions: 10x10x22 cm (3.9×3.9×8.7 in)

OrigamiSat-1 (Multi-functional Deployable Membrane Structure Demonstrator)

Origamisat-1 (Credit: JAXA)

A 3U CubeSat designed to demonstration multi-functional deployable membrane structure
construction. Includes a high-speed data downlink in 5.8 GHz using an on-membrane UHF antenna.

Proposer: Tokyo Institute of Technology
Partners: Nihon University, Sakasa Adtech Co., Ltd., WEL Research Co., Ltd.
Weight: 4.1 kg (9 lb)
Dimensions: 10x10x34 cm (3.9×3.9×13.4 in)