LOGAN, Utah – At the 36th Small Satellite Conference (SmallSat) the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) provided an industry and government overview of recent activities. One theme that emerged from the Side Meeting was the desire for international partners on several important projects.

In 2020 the Japanese government updated its basic plan on space policy to account for the economic growth and innovation happening in the space sector and its contribution to Japan’s economy. The update included a policy to strengthen the country’s industrial, science and technology infrastructure.

Japan’s basic plan on space policy is a product of the Aerospace Basic Act which was enacted in 2008. Space Policy is overseen the Space Development Strategy Headquarters whose head is the Prime Minister.

The Basic Plan on Space Policy is influenced by the Spacer Policy Committee which includes METI and many other Japanese departments and includes input from Japan’s Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).

METI is tasked in part to help ramp up Japanese space industry, including investing in new technologies through new space startups. At SmallSat, METI has organized a Japan Booth with representation of over 10 companies.

Aside from investing many new space startups, METI is also looking to expand Japan’s influence by creating an Asia-Pacific (APAC) space ecosystem.

METI’s overview was presented by Koji Ina, the Director, Space Industry Office. As he started to to outline the Japan’s space industry and policy he focused on two specific areas, satellites and remote sensing, and then lumped a bunch of other initiatives in “other.”

What was clear, that beyond trying to bolster Japan’s space industrial base and APAC ambitions, several larger projects are in need of international partners.

Configuration of the space integrated computing network. Credit: NTT/Sky perfect JSAT.
Configuration of the space integrated computing network. Credit: NTT/Sky perfect JSAT.

One such project is a Space Integrated Computing Network, essentially space based data centers connected through a Space Radio Access Networks (RAN) which would include High-Altitude Platform Stations (HAPS). When questioned, Ina said no international partners are part of the Space Integrated Computing Network at this time, but that they are now looking for those international partners. It should be noted that Airbus did join a study with NTT, Sky Perfect JSAT and DOCOMO this January for the HAPS portion of the project.

Two other projects that Japan is looking for international partners is the VHF Data Exchange System (VDES), a next-generation AIS (Automatic Identification System) and Space Solar Power System (SSPS).

SSPS is a technology that “is not mature” and for which Japan has been investing in off and on since the 1980’s. Japan is now considering an on-orbit technology demonstration as there have been some advancements in this area.

SpaceRef co-founder, entrepreneur, writer, podcaster, nature lover and deep thinker.