Space! Collaboration and New Business: Part 1
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Space! Collaboration and New Business: Part 1

Space! Collaboration and New Business: Part 1

Did last year mark the start of a new opportunity for collaboration in Australia-Japan business? We saw the amazing Japanese technical feat of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s (JAXA) launching two rovers from their mothership Hayabusa2 (Hayabusa is “Falcon” in Japanese) and successfully land them onto the asteroid “Ryugu”. This marked the world’s first man-made objects to land on the surface of an asteroid. In the same year, the Australian Federal Government announced the establishment of the Australian Space Agency (ASA) with an initial budget of A$41m over 4 years and to be located in Adelaide. South Australia was previously associated with rocket testing at its then called Woomera Rocket Range. Despite being involved in numerous space projects in the past, Australia until now, was one of just two OECD countries without a national space agency.

To help identify areas of potential business for Australian companies, we need to understand more about the landscape of the space sector in Japan.

Space – the Government initiatives

Although a common view of “space” is synonymous with terms such as “rocket launch” or “satellites”, the “space sector” has a very wide scope. This provides a broad number of touch points for industry collaboration. However, the role of governments in the space sector is especially significant. In this first JBA article, we look at the role of the public sector – private sector involvement will be discussed subsequently.


Japan’s entrance into the space industry began after World War II but with both domestic and external constraints unlike other countries, Japan’s development of space capabilities could not be developed for military purposes. As a result, the industry pursued a scientific based program. The development of Japanese space capabilities was spearheaded by the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS) and National Space Development Agency (NASDA).In February 1970, Japan became the 4thcountry to ever successfully launch a satellite into orbit.

However, the growing Japanese space capabilities and measures to protect its own industry were seen as a trade barrier locking out US companies. The 1980s were characterized by continuous rising trade tensions in a number of areas between the US and Japan. One particular US grievance was Japan’s unwillingness to open its Government procurement, especially for US companies. By 1990, US sanctions came to a head, especially over the access to Japanese tenders for telecommunication satellites. The issues were resolved and formalized into the Japan Satellite Procurement Agreement, forcing the Japanese procurement system for satellites to be open for international bids. For this reason, most Japanese owned telecommunication satellites are manufactured by U.S companies who had a competitive edge over the smaller Japanese companies. The impact of the opening up of the Japanese market tended to slow down further commercial development of the Japanese space sector. However, the agreement excluded non-commercial R&D satellites for the purpose of scientific research. This appears to have resulted in Japan’s domestic satellite development being prioritised in the field of Earth Observation (EO).

The tightening Japanese Government fiscal situation, especially as a result of the collapse of the “bubble economy” of the late 1980s, has seen the merging of various Government organisations. In 2003, after 3 decades of autonomy, ISAS and NASDA together with the National Aerospace Laboratory of Japan (NAL) were merged to form one administrative body, JAXA, now under the administrative control of Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology(MEXT).

Similarly in 2012, Japan Space Systems (JSS)was formed through the merger of 3 Governmental space research and development bodies (Earth Remote-Sensing Data Analysis Centre (ERSDAC); Institute For Unmanned Space Experiment Free Flyer (USEF); Japan Resource Observation System Organisation (JAROS), currently under the administrative control of The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI).Besides funding from METI, part of the JSS budget comes from financial support from member companies which are mostly ones in the fields of EO data analysis, heavy manufacturing, oil and gas and mineral resources. Unlike JAXA, whose focus is space related research and development for academic and scientific purposes, JSS primarily focuses on projects that benefit industry. With a strong expertise in EO data analysis, their main services include technology development, human resource development (remote-sensing and data processing training), market analysis and policy advice on behalf of METI and the Cabinet Office. (Interestingly the breadth of the “space industry” is reflected in the fact that 2 powerful ministries are responsible for different aspects of the sector.)


The Department of Industry, Innovation and Science has outlined an objective of tripling the size of Australia’s space industry to AU$10-12 billion by 2030. Although only just established, the Australian Space Agency lists as its role as providing advice to Government in relation to civil space policy including:

  • providing a national policy and strategic advice on the civil space sector
  • coordinating Australia’s domestic civil space sector activities
  • supporting the growth of Australia’s space industry and the use of space across the broader economy
  • leading international civil space engagement
  • administering space activities legislation and delivering on our international obligations