Japanese Space Spending Dropping Slightly for 2012

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Japan’s general space activities budget for 2012 has been set at 296.9 billion yen ($3.85 billion), down slightly from the current 300.9 billion yen, according to figures released Jan. 19 by the Strategic Headquarters for Space Policy (SHSP).

The budget, which goes into effect with the April 1 start of Japan’s new fiscal year, covers space funding for 11 different ministries and numerous organizations and research agencies. The largest of these is the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology (MEXT), which controls the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, Japan’s main space development organization.

MEXT will receive 173.9 billion yen, which is down from last year’s 177 billion. However, the funding will permit MEXT to proceed with the development of several large programs, including the Hayabusa-2 asteroid sample-return mission, the Astro-H X-ray space telescope, the Advanced Land Observing-2 satellite and the development of an H-2 Transfer Vehicle that would be capable of retrieving cargo from the international space station, according to Takashi Uchino, a member of MEXT’s Space and Astronautical Policy Division. Japan’s current H-2 Transfer Vehicles, which have launched twice to the international space station, burn up when the re-enter the atmosphere.

Japan’s parliament, the Diet, is expected to approve Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s 2012 budget before the end of March.