Press Release

Individual Law of New Space Agency, “Independent Administrative Institution Space Aeronautics Research and Development Organization”, Submitted to the

By SpaceRef Editor
January 30, 2003
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In August 2001, Ms. Atsuko Toyama, Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), presented to us the government policy of the integration of three aerospace organizations ISAS ,NASDA and NAL. Since then, the purpose, functions, organizational structure, etc., of the new agency have been discussed in the integrated preparatory committee presided by Mr. Takashi Aoyama, Senior Vice Minister of MEXT. The results of these deliberations were condified into an individual law based on the general law of independent administrative institutions, which was put before the extraordinary Diet session that began in mid October 2002.

As shown in the title of the individual law, the name of the new agency is the “Space Aeronautics Research and Development Agency” and the details of the new agency including its purpose and operations are stipulated in the law. The law, while naturally carrying on the purposes and operations of existing three aerospace organizations, goes into detail about the fundamental research and development regarding space science, launching, tracking and operation of satellites, and fundamental research and development of space aeronautics. For space science, “academic research on space science in cooperation with universities, etc.” is stated in the purpose section as the first obligation, which is stipulated again in the section on operations as “to conduct academic research on space science through coordination with universities, etc., as well as to provide cooperation in the graduate school and university education upon request from universities.” Here, “space science” is defined as “principles and applications of space technology and science” and thus the development of scientific satellites falls within the operational scope of space science. Moreover, as for considerations and arrangements for academic activities, Minister of MEXT is to instruct, through medium-term objectives, “respect for researchers’ initiatives and autonomy while giving due consideration to special characteristics of each academic research”. Considering these points, we can say that the key points that ISAS has insisted to be included in the new scheme have been incorporated into this law, namely “to maintain its role as an inter-university research institute and to promote academic research respecting researchers’ independence” and “to conduct graduate school education through the University of Tokyo, the Graduate University for Advanced Studies, etc.”

Among the new obligations of the new agency is the role of Space Activities Commission. While in the past, the National Space Development Agency was the only organization over which the Space Activities Commission exercised jurisdiction, the new law says that the competent minister shall set the medium-term objectives based on the long-term objectives on space development that were approved by the Space Activities Commission and established by the competent minister. This means that the Commission now assumes a new responsibility of evaluating the long-term objectives of space science, which in turn requires the Commission to develop a reliable system that facilitates the evaluation of science.

While this individual law stipulates in detail the purpose and operations of the new agency, it says nothing about its internal structure. This is because the general law provides that the chairman of the organization shall decide on matters related to its internal organization. To this end, the three organizations of ISAS, NASDA and NAL have formulated a Secretary Committee comprised of representatives from each organization, a secretariat and various working groups, which are now reviewing the following issues regarding the structure, systems, etc., of the new agency.

An independent administrative institution is required to develop a medium-term plan based on the medium-term objectives set forth by the Minister of MEXT, which should be evaluated by the assessment committee of independent administrative institutions. As the medium-term plan naturally includes mission projects, the new agency will need to devise convincing plans and explain their significance to the general public. Furthermore, as the three organizations have different personnel, compensation and pension systems at present, an integrated system must also be devised for the new agency. It is also required of us to develop a dynamic organization while streamlining its clerical and administrative structures. The three aerospace organizations are now reviewing these issues and plan to bring the results together by the end of FY2002 to start discussions with the MEXT and Space Activities Commission so that the executives of the new agency can take over these operations as soon as possible.

If the Diet deliberations proceed smoothly, the law will pass the Diet by the end of year 2002 and the new agency will start on October 1, 2003. There is less than one year left before the inauguration of the new agency. Although it seems difficult to finish all the necessary organizational arrangements to this schedule, we will make every effort to build “Space Aeronautics Research and Development Agency” that we can hand down proudly to posterity, in cooperation with everyone involved.

SpaceRef staff editor.