Japan will set up a 1 trillion yen fund to strengthen the space industry

Japan wants to become a major player in the global space industry and will set up a 1 trillion yen ($6.47 billion) fund to achieve that goal.

The Space Strategy Fund will be managed by the Japan Aerospace and Exploration Agency for a period of ten years to support technological innovation by companies and universities.

As early as this summer, JAXA will begin recruiting private sector organizations with the expertise to make things happen, with the goal of bringing them on board by the end of this fiscal year.

Specific areas of technological development will be decided at the earliest this month at a meeting of the Committee on National Space Policy under the Cabinet.

The Ministry of Science, the Ministry of Industry and the Ministry of Communications have proposed 22 candidate areas.

They include a 95 billion yen project to create a communications network based on satellite constellations; a 23 billion yen project to develop a fuel cell system for use on the lunar surface; and a 15.5 billion yen project to develop technologies to launch rockets more often and cheaper.

The government set aside a total of 300 billion yen in a supplementary budget for the 2023 financial year as the first part of the fund.

The amount exceeds the 215.5 billion yen allocated to JAXA in the budget for the full fiscal year 2023.

The Basic Space Policy Plan, revised last year, set a target to expand domestic space activities from 4 trillion yen in 2020 to 8 trillion yen by early 2030.

The Space Strategy Fund will be established as a key program to achieve that goal.

“It often takes time to develop and implement space technologies,” said Atsushi Uchida, a researcher at the Mitsubishi Research Institute. “Companies and universities have high expectations (of the fund) because it will allow them to formulate long-term research plans.”

American financial services provider Morgan Stanley estimates that the global space industry will grow to more than $1 trillion by 2040, about three times as much as in 2020.

In the United States, Elon Musk’s SpaceX and other startups have grown with support from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

International competition in the space sector continues to increase.

The government has set operational objectives for the Space Strategy Fund.

These include the launch of about thirty rockets per year by the mid-2030s and private sector companies playing a role in more than a dozen projects involving voyages beyond the Moon and Mars by the early 2030s.

Japan launched only two missiles last year.

Of the global total in 2023, the United States and China were responsible for 108 and 68 launches, respectively.

JAXA, whose primary mission is research and development, now bears the heavy responsibility of making Japan a star in the space industry.

The responsibility lies with JAXA to achieve operational objectives by selecting the companies and universities capable of developing target technologies, monitoring the progress of their work and providing professional advice to those partners.

The agency has engaged private sector companies and ministries to recruit experienced people for an internal department so that they can leverage their expertise in sourcing optimal companies and universities.

It is necessary to understand, manage and monitor the status of research by many companies and universities simultaneously and help produce the right results,” said Uchida. “JAXA and the four ministries and agencies involved must create a system to properly monitor progress and results.”