JAPAN'S SPACE COMMUNICATIONS PROGRAM

As with European satellite communications, the details of current and future Japanese capabilities in satellite communications are dealt with in detail in later chapters of this report and the Volume II site reports. Since the unique aspect of the Japanese program appears to be their approach, i.e., how the process works, this will be the major focus of this overview. The process appears to be one of consultation and consensus-building within several ministries and with significant input from the space and telecommunications industries. It is very effective, not only in defining carefully selected space and satellite communications programs, but also in seeing them through to successful conclusions.

This integrated and systems-oriented approach to space activities, including satellite communications, appears to be unique. The building of consensus through the National Organization for Space Development Activities (see Figure 1.5) and the Space Activities Commission (see Figure 1.6), the inclusion of many public entities in the planning process, and the process of review and approval of the entire space program are perhaps the most important characteristics. Additional support is provided through a highly structured and inclusive process called the Annual Space Development Program. It is also accomplished through other mechanisms such as the Key Technology Centers, and a variety of other incentives to industry to pursue new and innovative space activities. Figure 1.7 illustrates how the Annual Space Development Planning Program process works. Although not indicated in Figure 1.7, the Science and Technology Agency (STA) supplies a significant portion of NASDA's budget (e.g., for ETS-VI and COMETS).


Figure 1.5. National Organization for Space Development Activities


Figure 1.6. Space Activities Commission (Courtesy MITI)


Figure 1.7. The Annual Space Development Planning Process

Such an approach differs greatly from that in use in the United States. It would appear to make it more difficult to define, approve and implement new programs, but provides greater continuity and much more wide-spread support for their successful completion. The longer term results thus seem to be much more certain. In contrast, the U.S. system seems to allow an easier start to projects in a great number of different agencies, but these seem to be much easier to stop, delay or stretch out, often with unfortunate budgetary implications. Unlike the U.S. and Europe which have NASA and ESA as primary agencies for all space initiatives, Japan has spread its space activities among a number of governmental agencies and industry, but has tied them together with a much stronger coordinative process.

Japan's Plan

The Japanese approach to the development of satellite communications technology and systems starts with a compilation of experts' opinions on expected technical developments and future market opportunities. Japan then determines the Annual Space Development Program. The acquisition of this understanding and expertise is accomplished under a comprehensive set of future system studies whose reach extends well into the next century. The ETS-V (Engineering Test Satellite V) now in orbit and the ETS-VI to be launched in 1994 represent the near-term aspects of the plan. The COMETS (Communications ETS) extends the plan with an approved satellite due for launch in 1997. In the advanced planning and design phase are two more as-yet-unapproved COMETS concepts, moving toward possible launches around the turn of the century.

Non-Technical Issues of Major Importance to the Future Development of Japanese Satellite Communications

In Japan one finds rather unique management and organization techniques for R&D in satellite communications, a unique system for funding advanced research efforts, and a variety of special means for encouraging new commercial efforts, all of which have a major impact on future technology and applications. The key element of Japanese development policies with regard to critical new technologies can be summed up by "integrated thinking and planning." To examine these points in a systematic manner it is important to address the following points: (a) the Japanese Annual Space Development Program which includes the field of satellite communications; (b) the public/private structure and organization of development efforts in satellite communications; (c) the special types of government-sponsored programs designed to promote the development of satellite communications and space applications in Japan; and (d) the relationship between commercial/applications-oriented space programs and space-science related programs. In all of these areas Japan has a markedly different approach from the U.S. and Europe. This is not to imply that the Japanese approach is superior or inferior, but it is important to understand the fundamentals of the approach. It is particularly instructive to learn about the power of highly integrated and cooperative approaches to the complex field of satellite communications.

The Public/Private Partnership

Key industrial participants in the Japanese space program, including satellite communications, include Nippon Electric Corporation (NEC), Mitsubishi Electric Corporation (MELCO) and Toshiba Ltd. Other companies (Fujitsu, Matsushita, etc.) occasionally play specialized roles, but most applications and scientific satellites are manufactured by only these three corporations. Although these main spacecraft suppliers are highly competitive, they all help create the Annual Space Development Program and work intensively within their assigned roles to achieve it.

The Space Activities Commission (SAC) determines the Annual Space Development Program. As shown in Figure 1.6, the organizational structure supporting the SAC goes beyond the ministries and their executive and support organizations, enlisting the Society of Japanese Aerospace Companies, the Keidanren Space Activities Promotion Council and, through them, their aerospace-related member companies. These entities also work to identify and implement national policy goals that go beyond the interests of any one corporation. This is a process that is quite different from that currently practiced in the U.S. wherein integrated planning or systems thinking across public and private lines of authority in space or any other matter is considered both improper and unwise.

The process of coordination with regard to smaller service organizations is much less well defined, but in the area of research coordination some unique mechanisms have been brought into being as recently as 1986. These key technology centers are described in the next section.

Governmental Incentives for Space Development

The Japanese government has a systematic approach and program for the development of high technology enterprise of which space and satellite communications are only a part. Within this context, the support levels for space and satellite communications are clearly strong and measurably effective. One of the more important new mechanisms is the key technology centers. When telecommunications in Japan was restructured under three new legislative measures in 1986 to make it competitive, one of the lesser known actions was to empower the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) and the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications (MPT) to co-fund a series of "key technology centers" to carry out longer range high technology research for Japan. The dividends from the government's holdings in the Nippon Telegraph and Telegraph Corporation (NTT) were designated to be so invested each year. To date some 40 key technology centers have been established. Of these, three have a major focus on satellite communications -- namely the Advanced Telecommunications Research (ATR) International, the Space Communications Research (SCR) Corporation, and the Satellite Communications Laboratory. Typically, these centers are structured as research corporations with a large share of the funding coming from the Japanese government and the remainder coming from interested Japanese corporations who become sponsoring organizations. Since the focus of the centers is very long range, there is no problem of overlap with the individual research programs of their industrial partners. The result is a unique blending of government and private resources consistent with national priorities and with a dedicated source of long term funding.

Generic Japanese governmental policies that have had the effect of promoting satellite communications technologies and utilization include: (a) tax rebates, incentives, or relief; (b) low interest loans in the 3-5% range or, in special cases, interest-free loans; and, (c) special relief from governmental regulations, standards or tariffs. These measures are not always specifically targeted at satellite communications, nor are they an explicit part of the Annual Space Development Program, but they have a significant beneficial impact on the satellite communications industry. While such measures have been applied on a case-by-case basis in the U.S. and Europe, the Japanese applications are much more systematic and pervasive.

Finally, government development projects in satellite communications also reflect a unique private/public partnership. In reviewing such projects as CS-2, CS-3, BS-2, BS-3 and the ETS-VI, it is noteworthy that NTT and NHK (the Japan Broadcasting Corp.) have assumed virtually a prime role in design and implementation. Furthermore, the satellites have been used not only as experimental satellites but also as pre-operational prototypes. Under a recently negotiated arrangement with the U.S. Trade Representative, the government of Japan has decided on open, transparent and non-discriminatory procurement procedures for satellites other than R&D satellites. The N-STAR project awarded to SS/Loral, that will supersede the CS-3 series, is the first implementation of this new arrangement. COMETS, which is strictly experimental (i.e., an R&D satellite), is also a manifestation of this arrangement.

The Division of Space Science and Space Applications Projects in Japan

Within the U.S., the role of promoting both space sciences and space applications is largely vested with NASA and, until quite recently, they even were combined within the NASA Office of Space Science and Applications. As shown quite clearly in Figure 1.6, the Japanese approach is in sharp contrast. The Japanese space sciences research program began with the University of Tokyo, and when it grew too large it was transferred to a governmental agency known as the Institute of Space and Astronautical Sciences (ISAS), which was created within the Ministry of Education. MITI has responsibility for efforts on earth observation and space experiments, the Ministry of Transport for weather observation, and the Central Research Laboratory of MPT for telecommunications and broadcasting. NASDA, through the Science and Technology Agency, has responsibility for the development of rockets and shares responsibility for flight hardware. The result is that priorities for space science, technology development and space applications are set quite independently without direct competition for funds and management attention.

Four ministries (MPT, MITI, Ministry of Transport and Ministry of Education) and the Science and Technology Agency not only participate in this process but have a stake in the outcome, the Annual Space Development Program. Much of this outcome has, over the years, been directly applicable to the several needs of Japan as seen through these Ministries. MPT (through CRL) and MITI have fostered a significant and successful focusing of funding on space communications (telecommunications and broadcasting) and imaging. The end result has been that, although the $1.6 billion per year budget of the entire Japanese space program is much smaller than that of the U.S., space applications (and in particular satellite communications) R&D funding is significantly larger (as is also the case in Europe).

Merger of Telecommunications and Computing

Japan's technical and industrial community recognized very early the overlap and merger of communications and computing (C&C) technologies which came about with the transition in both fields from analog to digital. One company, NEC Corporation (which has adopted "C&C" as its motto), finds itself in the unique position of being among the world's top five manufacturers of both computers and communications equipment, as well as the number one manufacturer of semiconductors (1990 figures). Fujitsu also has been a leader both in digital communications and in computer manufacturing. There are no companies in the United States or in Europe that are leaders in both computing and telecommunications.

High Data Rate Communications

Although both NTT and KDD are developing capabilities to implement B-ISDN for use in optical fiber cables for telephone trunking and for digital video distribution, they are not actively promoting B-ISDN for satellite use. Development of modems and codecs at rates exceeding 150 Mbits/sec for satellite service was not in evidence.

Somewhat surprisingly, considering their leading position in many communications and computing technologies, Japanese companies have not taken steps to exploit the interaction of high performance computing and HDR communications. KDD, noting U.S. leadership in HDR communications, expressed interest in co-operating in trans-Pacific experiments (using U.S.-supplied equipment!).

Japan's Role in International Space Telecommunications Organizations

Japan is quite active in many international and regional organizations that are concerned with space telecommunications. It is an active member of the ITU and its international advisory committees and is a member, owner and active technical participant in both INTELSAT and Inmarsat. It has played a key role within regional groups such as the Asia-Pacific Telecommunity and the Asian Pacific Broadcasting Union. Despite this active participation and even ownership responsibilities within INTELSAT and Inmarsat, the Japanese role is less pronounced than that of either Europe or the U.S. ESA has a key developmental role with regard to EUTELSAT and Inmarsat. Although less precisely defined, U.S. commercial interests and NASA have historically played key developmental roles with regard to INTELSAT. It would appear that Japan would like very much to strengthen its technical and commercial relationships with Inmarsat and INTELSAT. Thus, outstanding efforts by Japanese research laboratories (KDD, NEC, and others) in performing technical studies for these two organizations can be expected. The current Project 21 design definition study which KDD is doing for Inmarsat is indicative of the types of efforts that may be undertaken in the future.

The strategic importance of such studies is clear. The need for NASA and U.S. industry to provide continuing active support to international satellite communications organizations should be equally clearly understood and actively pursued.

Opportunities for U.S.-Japan Cooperation

The Japanese and U.S. satellite communications development programs in many ways complement each other well. This suggests a great range of possible areas of future collaboration. One possibility would be a joint space platform for large aperture deployable antennas for mobile, navigation and broadcasting services. Other options might include an HDR satellite system for Asia-Pacific service. Another might be the development of a multi-beam antenna systems for USAT terminals, such as might be used in the Advanced Asia-Pacific Telecommunications Satellite Project; or perhaps an interactive DBS system. Still another attractive possibility, proposed under the Japan-U.S. Space Cooperation Project, is the development of a global environmental and disaster observation satellite system.

The ability to carry out cost-sharing with Japan and Europe while advancing key new satellite communications technologies could be an attractive way to proceed in a time of austerity. It could also serve to place new emphasis on practical space applications. In particular, it could help reestablish lost U.S. parity in research for satellite communications, broadcasting, navigation, and mobile communications which has been gradually lost over the last decade. A systematic process would be needed to evaluate possible candidate projects and to assess whether cooperation with either Japan or Europe or both would be the optimum solution.


Published: July 1993; WTEC Hyper-Librarian