Mankind getting closer to space ~"Daichi-2"launched successfully~  宇宙は近づいている―「だいち2号」打ち上げ成功―



The main engine was ignited, a loud explosion resounded all around and the rocket went out of sight in no time, leaving a thread of smoke behind. The launch vehicle H2A No. 24 carrying the Advanced Land Observing Satellite "Daichi-2" (ALOS-2) lifted off from the Tanegashima Space Center in southern Kagoshima Prefecture on May 24. Far away to the north in Ibaraki Prefecture, a large number of people, young and old, took to the Tsukuba Space Center, the birthplace of the satellite, to have a look at the liftoff on a large screen in the facility’s tracking room.


 メイン・エンジンが点火、爆音を轟かせ一筋の煙とともにロケットは見る見る視界から遠ざかる。5月24日、陸域観測技術衛星「だいち2号」が鹿児島県・種子島宇宙センターより打ち上げられた。この様子をひと目見ようと、「だいち2号」の“生まれ故郷”である遠く離れた茨城県・筑波宇宙センターにも老若男女問わず大勢の人が訪れ、中継室で大型スクリーンを熱心に見つめていた。                             Daichi-2 was developed and launched by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), an independent administrative entity tasked with undertaking the nation’s aerospace research and development. The agency came into being in 2003 through the merger of three separate aerospace organizations. The integration was a part of the government’s administrative reforms at the time. However, it was primarily aimed to do away with the lack of coordination among the three organizations and restore the public confidence in the nation’s space development which had been tarnished by their successive mess-ups. In its early days JAXA had to face a spate of ordeals such as the midair blast of H2A rocket No. 6. But it has produced a number of brilliant results to date, including the return to Earth in June 2010 of the asteroid explorer "Hayabusa" which brought back samples from the asteroid “Itokawa” to help elucidate the origin of the solar system.




“Precise diagnosis is needed for Earth, too” is the catchphrase of the Daichi-2 project which is aimed for the purpose of cartography, regional observation, disaster monitoring and survey of natural resources. One of its big differences from its predecessor “Daichi” is its enhanced performance. Daichi-2 is much better in terms of resolution (the ability to measure or distinguish an object) and observation frequency. The higher resolution has been made possible by the adoption of a new observation mode called a spotlight mode that can provide a 1-3-meter resolution, compared to its predecessor’s 10-meter resolution. This enables it to discern and collect information which its predecessor could not. Daichi-2’s observation frequency has been improved by expanding the observable range by 3 times, widening observable areas from 870 km to 2,320 km and adopting a right-and-left looking function, which was not available for the predecessor. In addition to these high technologies, its improved capability as a radar satellite allows it to discern even a ship at sea in a pitch-dark night.




"Japan’s aerospace development does not quite match its gross domestic product (GDP) that ranks third in the world. We should launch satellites not just for technical development purposes but for practical purposes."




This is a remark made by an engineer who had worked for JAXA for many years. JAXA’s substantive space development budget was 180 billion yen in fiscal 2010 as compared with an equivalent of 1,757.9 billion yen (4.6 trillion yen in 2007) for the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and 501.8 billion yen (800 billion yen in 2007) for the European Space Agency (ESA). In other words, JAXA’s budget is only one-tenth of NASA’s. Japan’s overall annual space development budget, including allocations for all related ministries and agencies, is still smaller at 339 billion yen.


長年、JAXAに勤めていたある技術者はこう語る。2010年度の宇宙開発予算を先進国の宇宙開発機関同士で比較すると、米航空宇宙局(NASA) が約1兆7,579億円(09年度は4・6兆円)、欧州宇宙機関 (ESA) が約5,018億円(07年度は約8,000億円)であるのに対し、JAXAの実質的な予算額は1,800億円とNASAの10分の1程度にすぎない。なお他省庁の予算も含めた宇宙開発予算総額は3,390億円になる。

In terms of staff size, JAXA has only 1,600 persons, one-tenth or less of NASA’s 18,000 (the U.S. total comes to 43,000, including the 25,000 assigned by the Strategic Command). For comparison, ESA has 10,000 persons and the Indian Space Research Organization has 13,600 persons. India is a fast growing economy but it ranks 10th in the world in GDP terms.




Today mankind is getting closer to the space. One can fly into outer space if conditions are met. A lot of consumer goods from baseball spikes to cans for drinks are manufactured with aerospace technologies. Those technologies are being put to wider practical applications, such as weather forecasting, regeneration medicine, disaster prevention and military invention. There are countless other examples. The space is coming closer and closer to us. Taking the occasion of Daichi-2’s launch, how about thinking of the outer space from time to time?




 (Written by: Masahiko Hachiro)





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