Table Speech

How Leading Space Technologies Change Our Society

June 22, 2016

Mr. Shizuo Yamamoto
Vice President, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency

 The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) implements multiple initiatives, ranging from the development and utilization of rockets and satellites to manned space activity, space exploration and space science research. Today I will talk about changes to be brought to our life through leading space technologies, such as space-based positioning and earth observation technologies that contribute to enhance disaster preparedness and improve the global environment.

 Let me start with earth observation technology. We are suffering from more frequent and intense extreme weather events that are said to be triggered by global-scale phenomena including the atmosphere-ocean interaction. Currently, there are over 130 earth-observation satellites in operation that allow extensive, repetitive and detailed “observation” of the ground surface as well as comprehensive “understanding” on how natural phenomena affect our life based on various observation data. Let me highlight that we are currently making maximum use of scientific knowledge to improve our quality of life, supported by our latest technologies.

 JAXA developed DAICHI-2, a satellite with a cutting-edge radar system and analysis processing capacity that allows the detection of tectonic movements down to centimeters. It also has high accuracy Attitude Control orbit determination function. When volcanic activity became active in Hakone late last year, DAICHI-2 provided synthetic image information based on interferometry analysis. It was utilized by disaster prevention agencies to determine the level of alert/warning issues and by respective municipal governments to set up access restrictions. When a series of earthquakes hit Kumamoto area this April, the Geospatial Information Authority of Japan made a press release based on the data analysis of tectonic movements sent from DAICHI-2 immediately after the disaster.

 We are currently working towards even more advanced utilization of radar satellites to speculate on the condition of subterranean magma and its effect on the earth’s surface, thanks to the high-precision imagery data. Satellite observation data are also applied for efficient infrastructure maintenance and inspection. Japan has many rivers and the length of its Class-A river dike totals 13,390 kilometers. Satellite images enable to monitor and detect deterioration, thus identify high-priority areas where on-the-spot inspection can be conducted without delay.

 Let me now talk about how we use satellite data for earth observation. JAXA launched a joint international satellite mission “Global Precipitation Measurement” with NASA. We were honored to welcome the U.S. Ambassador to Japan Ms. Caroline Kennedy to Tanegashima Space Center when the rocket was launched. The Japan Meteorological Agency conducted comparative verification and confirmed that observation data sent from the satellite have contributed to improve the prediction accuracy. The Global Satellite Mapping of Precipitation (GSMaP) is a near real-time data we create and offer by combining satellite data of other institutes. As many countries in Asia suffer from wind and flood damages, the data play an instrumental role in making timely preventive measures. JAXA collaborates with disaster prevention and meteorological agencies across Asia to conduct demonstration projects on utilizing GSMaP for flood warning and evacuation order.

 JAXA launched the greenhouse gases observing satellite IBUKI to measure the concentration of CO2 and CH4 over the entire surface of the earth and to utilize the data to identify and monitor effective countermeasures. JAXA also conducts ocean environment monitoring. Thanks to the computer simulation algorithm, we can now forecast the undersea physical quantity and the flow of the currents. Observation data, including sea surface temperature, are utilized by the fisheries industry that reports a fuel consumption reduction of about 16%.

 Before closing, let me share some initiatives we implement to improve the accuracy of satellite positioning. I am sure you are familiar with the vehicle navigation based on this technology. Countries around the world have launched positioning satellites and developed different systems, including GPS (U.S.A.), Galileo (Europe) and GLONASS (Russia). Countries further strive to remove positioning error by utilizing the atomic clock, precise orbit-determination techniques, multiple satellites and frequency waves as well as carrier wave measurement.

 The Japanese government aims to achieve automated driving on highways by the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games. Satellite-based precise positional measurement technology is imperative and various industries in Japan, including automobile, electronic devices, map and receiving apparatus, work in close collaboration to gain competitive advantage over international competitors. JAXA participated in the verification test of a self-driving farm tractor in Australia. Thanks to the advanced satellite positioning technology, the results showed that the tractor could track, turn and operate machinery with positioning accuracies of around 5 centimeters. If we succeed in commercializing precision farming based on advanced positioning signals, it can lead to more efficient harvesting and increased production output.

 Space satellites support our everyday life, including the meteorological satellite HIMAWARI, car navigation system and BS (broadcast satellite) programs. As I shared today how satellite data are utilized to take countermeasures for natural disasters and environmental challenges, we hope they come to form the indispensable social infrastructures for effective implementation and assessment of policies taken by the central and local governments. We strive to make advanced space technologies contribute to our safe and secure life.