The world’s space industry has a huge market that was worth $304.3 billion in 2012. For many years, Western countries have worked to “industrialize” the field of space exploration, and using its low costs as a weapon, China is catching up. On the other hand, Japan’s space industry has generated sales of just 260 billion yen and exports of only 17 billion yen. This is because Japan’s space policy has hitherto focused on research. Government policy on space needs to adopt an attitude of making space a competitive industry.
1. Create a Structure in which the Demand Side, i.e. Defense and Business, Lead Space Development
The biggest reason that space development in Japan has been “centered on research” is that the military, the biggest user of space technology, has been isolated from space development under the guise of the principle of peaceful use. It is therefore essential that a user-side-oriented space development framework that sees the defense sector and private-sector business working together to drive space development forward be established.
2. Spinoffs from Space Technology: Expand the Scope of the Industry and Trigger Innovation through Private-Sector-led Space Development
There are numerous examples of space development spinoffs, i.e. technologies borne out of space development, finding uses in various fields. A probe that could make a soft landing on Mars led to the development of airbags for cars, while structural design technology gave rise to the diamond-cut cans used for chuhai alcoholic beverages. The same is true for such technologies as solar cells and fuel cells.
Space development is a treasure house of innovation. We would like the government to ensure adequate funding for space by, for example, combining space development budgets through, for example, joint development by JAXA and the Ministry of Defense’s technology research headquarters. We also want a private-sector-led development framework to be established. Through such moves, we hope that space-related industries can be nurtured and new industries can be created through spinoffs.
3. Earth Observation Satellites: Allow Dual Use for Commercial and Military Purposes and Encourage Private-Sector-led Development
In the U.S., spy satellite technology has been made available to private-sector companies, with the government concluding long-term contracts to purchase images from private-sector satellites and providing assistance with development expenses. This approach has made the U.S. earth observation satellite business more competitive. The same has happened in Europe.
In Japan, too, competition should be encouraged in the field of earth observation satellites, while protecting the market to a certain degree through development assistance to the private sector and long-term image-purchasing contracts. The problem here, however, is the lack of government demand. As a result, demand should be maximized by allowing dual use of information-gathering satellites (military) and earth observation satellites such as weather satellites (civilian).
4. Swiftly Bring the Number of Quasi-Zenith Satellites to Seven and Expand Business Opportunities
Japan is the world’s biggest user of GPS, and with the aim of supplementing GPS, the government plans to develop a quasi-zenith satellite (QZS) system and deploy seven of them to enable sustainable positioning in the future. The deployment of seven such satellites will significantly increase GPS-related business opportunities in Asia and Oceania. It has also been estimated that the size of the market in the positioning-related business will jump to 56 trillion yen by 2025. The number of quasi-zenith satellites should therefore be increased to seven as soon as possible.
5. Rockets: Capture the World Market by Reducing Costs
These days, an average of 70 rockets are launched worldwide each year, but only 4% of them are launched from Japan. Share of the commercial rocket market is split fairly evenly between Europe’s Ariane and Russia’s Proton rockets. The technology level of Japan’s main large rocket is world class, and Epsilon, a new type of rocket, and H-3, a next-generation carrier rocket, are also under development. To capture a slice of the world rocket market, which is set to expand in the future, development should focus on competitiveness. For example, costs should be reduced and the time period between launches should be reduced.