The February NASDA REPORT described the beginning of the i-Space Project aimed at contributing to the coming IT age through development and use of the space infrastructure. This March issue reports on the two pilot experiments now conducted, as part of the i-Space Project, in the fields of education, health, and welfare.

First is the report on the pilot experiment for education. This experiment tries to realize the “Field Learning,” which is to bring such outdoor study environments as ruins and farms into the classroom by making use of the satellite’s feature of wide coverage (see Figure 1).

With the use of a satellite, a teacher in the field is able to communicate with students in the classroom even from hard-to-communicate locations, such as mountainous places, where a cellular phone does not work. By transmitting the image of 360-degree from a panoramic camera (see Photo 1), a teacher gives a lecture from the area being displayed, while providing students with the feeling of actually being there. The panoramic images will also enable teachers to educate students from a comprehensive viewpoint.

This experiment is being conducted as joint research between NASDA and the National Institute of Multimedia Education (NIME) under the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. NASDA is mainly in charge of pre-demonstrating communication technology prior to the utilization experiment on the Engineering Test Satellite VIII (ETS-VIII).

The school appointed as a model for the experiment is Miyazaki Prefectural Gokase Secondary School, which introduces a six-year educational system. Miyazaki University will cooperate in evaluating the educational effectiveness of the experiment.

The use of satellite earth observation data in education is also encouraged in this experiment. One application example is a study on an environmental issue, in which the experiment equipment is used in the place with an environmental problem, and the report from this site is compared in the classroom with the data observed by earth observation satellite.

Remote tour in Tsukuba Space Center

A remote tour of the Tsukuba Space Center was conducted from the school classroom on January 17, 2001, with the aim of demonstrating the usefulness of the system (see Photo 2). A question and answer session was held after explanations of the Space Center and the artificial satellites. Many questions were received from the students and a lively demonstration ensued. The feature of the experiment system, which transmits panoramic images, instead of a teleconference system, made students feel that they were actually at the Space Center.

A lecture and exchange class from Tomisima High School in Hyuga, Miyazaki Prefecture, is planned in March this year. In the next fiscal year, the experiment will be expanded to include students in schools within Japan and overseas. Based on the experiment results, further efforts will be taken to make such field lectures more practical using handy communication terminal through the ETS-VIII utilization experiment.

Pilot project for telemedicine and welfare

NASDA has conducted the experiment on the mobile medical care in collaboration with the Medical Department of Shinshu University Hospital (see Photo 3) and with the cooperation of Kosyoku Central Hospital in Nagano Prefecture (see Photo 4) since FY2000. Main purpose of the experiment is to promote the use of Information Technology and mobile satellite communications in telemedicine, emergency treatment, and other medical operations outdoors.
NASDA is currently working on technical research and simulation of mission operations for ETS-VIII medical experiments as follows:

A doctor carries a satellite communication terminal about the size of the medical bag when visiting patients’ homes. The doctor can diagnose the patients while consulting with expert doctors at special hospitals, thereby reducing patients’ costs of traveling or being admitted to hospitals.

A doctor travels to disaster site to provide emergency treatment for injured victims. For preventative medical care, an advanced medical examination vehicle, called a mobile hospital, comes to residential areas to regularly provide health checkups for residents in an effort to make mobile medical operations more practical in the future.

Evaluations on mobile medical operations

Referring to the pilot experiment system of Figure 2, multiple high-definition medical images from Computer Topography (CT), Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), and pathology-related apparatus are transferred from Kosyoku Central Hospital to Shinshu University Hospital via satellite using the Client Server (C/S) system. Evaluations are conducted on the feasibility and usefulness of mobile medical treatment and portable satellite terminals, which are targeted for the future mobile hospital.

Further evaluations are conducted on communication protocols which should be the most suitable for mobile medical treatment, the compact and lightweight communication devices, and applications interfacing between medical equipment and communication equipment through transferring and receiving a plurality of these high-definition medical images required for diagnoses with the limited communications data rates. The evaluation in view of smooth remote consultation is also conducted while sharing medical data bi-directionally with hospitals. The results will be further proved in the ETS-VIII utilization experiment aiming at making the system more practical.

Conducting the pilot experiments for these two areas as a foothold, NASDA tries to apply satellite communication technology to a variety of satellite utilizations in the future. Through the promotion of satellite use, NASDA will make utmost efforts to contribute to social development and improvement of quality of life.