Cuts in Japan’s Space Budget To Force Launch Delays

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  Space News Business

Cuts in Japan’s Space Budget To Force Launch Delays

By PAUL KALLENDER-UMEZU
Space News Correspondent
posted: 24 January 2005
03:33 pm ET


TOKYO — Japan’s 2005 space budget will be 260.3 billion yen ($2.5 billion), 4.7 percent less than the current budget. As a result of the budget cuts and some technical problems, a number of satellite launches will be delayed, according to Japanese space officials.

Japan’s general space budget is allotted to six governmental ministries plus the Prime Minister’s Cabinet Office, which manages the nation’s national security satellite program.

The Cabinet Office will receive 62.4 billion yen of the space budget for 2005, 1.2 percent less than in 2004. One Information Gathering Satellite will be launched in fiscal 2005 to join two already orbiting, and another will be launched in the 2006 fiscal year, according to documents released by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, or MEXT.

The Ministry of Finance will forward the budget to Japan’s national Diet, or parliament, to be passed into law by March 31. The government’s fiscal year runs April 1 through March 31.

The budget for the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), which is allotted to MEXT, will be 176.7 billion yen, down 1.9 percent from 2004.

JAXA’s budget covers the nation’s major satellite projects, space-science programs and launch-vehicle development.

Shigekazu Matsuura, deputy director of space utilization at MEXT, said several satellite launches have been postponed because of budget cuts or technical concerns.

Launch schedules also have been pushed back by a failure of the H2A rocket in November 2003 and redesigns of its solid-fueled booster rockets.

Among projects facing delays are the Engineering Test Satellite-8 for experimental communications technologies and the Wideband InterNetworking engineering test and Demonstration Satellite, Matsuura said in a Jan. 7 interview.

The Engineering Test Satellite-8 program will receive 1.9 billion yen of the 5 billion yen requested for 2005, and further tests are needed to resolve doubts about whether the satellite’s 14-module antennas will open properly, Matsuura said. The satellite’s launch date has been pushed back from this winter to some time in the 2006 fiscal year.

The Wideband test satellite will receive 3.3 billion yen out of the 9.5 billion yen requested for 2005, and its launch will be postponed from the 2006 fiscal year into the 2007 budget cycle. The program is not viewed as a high priority by Japan’s Council for Science and Technology Policy, the nation’s top committee for science projects, Matsuura said.

The Astro -F infrared telescope satellite also may be delayed because of a lack of budget, according to Yasunori Matogawa, associate executive director of JAXA. Astro -F will receive 2.6 billion yen of the 5.6 billion yen requested. It is to be launched aboard the nation’s M-5 rocket, but the flight may be delayed from next year to a later date, Matogawa said.

The Lunar -A M oon earthquake measurement probe has been sidelined after design problems were found with penetrators designed to smash through the regolith, or lunar crust, said Matsuura. The project now lacks a launch schedule while engineers decide how long it will take, and how much money they will need, to salvage the mission, he said.

Three other space-science satellites all received adequate funding and do not face delays.

“It’s almost okay, but we need to form a clearer picture of what we want with space science and planetary probes,” Matogawa said in a Jan 11 telephone interview.

He said that Keiji Tachikawa, who became president of JAXA late last year, signaled he was “in favor” of space science.

“I hope so,” Matogawa said.

Japan’s budget request process allows ministries to request 20 percent year-on-year increases from the Ministry of Finance, which typically only awards a fraction of the amount asked for.

“It was impossible to get the 20 percent but we got about what we expected, and it’s a realistic number,” Matogawa said.

“Yes, this cut is almost expected,” said Kazuto Suzuki, assistant professor of international economics at the University of Tsukuba and an expert on European and Japanese space policy.

“In general, the budget process is always pushing and shoving between the Ministry of Finance (Treasury) and the other ministries,” Suzuki said.

Although the budget for H2 A rocket development is 1.8 billion yen compared to the 2.4 billion yen requested, it is enough money not to delay future launches, he said.

The H2A is scheduled to launch the MTSat-1R weather, navigation and air traffic control satellite next month. Launches for the H2A during the 2005 budget cycle will include the ALOS earth observation satellite and the MTSat-2. In fiscal 2006 the H2A is scheduled for another three launches, according to MEXT documents.

Other major rocket programs are on schedule. JAXA will receive 3.8 billion yen for the heavy lift H2A that can launch 8 tons to geostationary transfer orbit. The heavy lift H2A is on time and has sufficient funding, Suzuki said . A test launch, probably with a dummy payload, is due in fiscal 2007. The following year the rocket will launch a dummy payload aboard a transfer vehicle pod that is being developed to ferry supplies to the i nternational s pace s tation.

“There is a strong logic to support this program,” Suzuki said, because the U.S. space shuttle is grounded, and the Japanese government considers the transfer vehicle an important element within the i nternational s pace s tation framework.

The Quasi-Zenith Satellite System, a three-satellite project providing regional communications and navigation services, will receive 8.6 billion yen of 9.9 billion yen applied for.

Kiyoshi Toriyama, executive vice president of Advanced Space Business Corp., said the budget signaled “strong government intentions” to move ahead with the program. Advanced Space Business Corp. represents a consortium of private backers for the project who want to run commercial services.

“Simply speaking, we are satisfied,” Toriyama said in a Jan 11 telephone interview.

The company wants the government to become an anchor tenant to pay for services when the constellation is operational in 2010 or so. Without the government as an anchor tenant, the company has been unable to raise as much money as it wanted to push ahead with plans for commercial services. Nonetheless, the government budget will allow the completion of satellite and system designs next fiscal year as planned, Toriyama said.

Comments: pkk@tkb.att.ne.jp