The United States and Japan control some 40% of the world's economy. During the last five years, the U.S. economy has been steady and except for export ratios has shown healthy trends. There has been excellent growth in satellite communications manufacturing, systems and services. Japan's economy has slowed during the same period, and the export of satellite components, systems and services is suspected to be short of its predicted goals. Certainly, pressure from U.S. trade delegations to restrain exports has taken a toll on satellite communications exports. The export trade ratio will continue to be a problem and Japanese satellite vendors are looking to non-U.S. markets especially the Pacific Rim and Asia, for new growth. Japan's overall space budget has been saddled by a major commitment to an International Space Station module (JEM), and higher than expected costs for the H2 launch system. These space commitments have reduced the amount of funds the government may appropriate for new experimental satellite communications and for smaller space science projects. However, the government's priority is very clear between these two areas. NASDA and ISAS budgets were reduced for a number of space science projects including an earth observing satellite while two communications programs: the Optical Inter-orbit Communications Engineering Test Satellite (OICETS) and the Data Relay Test Satellite were given increases of 35% and 43%, respectively. Also, continued support is being given to the Communications and Broadcast Engineering Test Satellite (COMETS) program and R&D is approved for a new gigabit satellite. The U.S. space program does not show the same priority or support for satellite communications.
Japanese companies were the first to promote the integration of computing and communications and are leading the U.S. in the integration of these technological areas. Japanese companies have a good understanding of the burgeoning multimedia market and are adjusting priorities and conducting R&D to serve this market. For example, NTT is dedicating laboratory groups to multimedia research with new multimedia development centers and laboratories. Japan is a global leader in the development of advanced microwave devices and components for satellite payloads, including: MMICs, solid state power amplifiers (SSPAs), high power GaAs LSIs, and traveling wave tube amplifiers (TWTAs), especially the 23 GHz TWTA being developed for COMETS.
OICETS is moving ahead with increased support. Japan's interest in the development of advanced space laser communications technologies was reflected in a world-class "Topical Workshop on Space Laser Communications" held March 1997 at the Communications Research Laboratories outside Tokyo. The world's experts in laser communications attended this conference, and while Japanese and European participants talked about satellite hardware and new experiments in laser communications for commercial development, the U.S. experts discussed a long range plan to develop a (lasercom) roadmap for the "Mission to the Solar System." In addition to ETS-VIII, and COMETS, research has been approved on a proposed new gigabit satellite. The Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications is accelerating plans to launch a high data rate communications satellite. Research findings are concluding that the high data rate market needs satellites to be integrated with optical fibers, thus this gigabit experimental spacecraft may be launched in 2002 or 2003 instead of the 2005 date initially proposed. The Ka-band satellite will have 3 meter diameter dish antennas and will have coverage zones from Northeast Asia to Australia and Hawaii.
The initial alliances of U.S. companies Loral and Hughes to supply spacecraft for and have some ownership or equity in Japan Satellite Systems Inc. (JSAT) and Space Communications Corp. (SCC) seem to have ended. Both Japanese companies, JSAT and SCC, are now wholly owned by Japanese companies and show signs of being competitive in purchasing new systems and equipment. A new working relationship between Mitsubishi Electric Corporation (MELCO) and Lockheed Martin has recently been established, and this certainly increases the capabilities of both companies.
In the privatization of Japan's communications companies, the government is using funds that it is receiving from these privatization transactions to fund new laboratories and support new industrial capability. The modern, new NTT laboratories are an excellent example of this wise policy.
In brief, the following seem to be current Japanese R&D priorities: multimedia, mobile communications, laser communications and high data rate communications satellites.
The downturn in Japan's economy has hurt the funding of new space experimental programs. While U.S. companies are still the largest market for satellite components and devices, the large Japanese space companies are looking to Asian and Pacific Rim countries for new markets for systems and services. MELCO has announced its desire to be the prime contractor for a commercial communications satellite for a non-U.S. customer, and in the next five years we should see a number of Japanese companies or consortia compete in the international marketplace for complete spacecraft. However, U.S. companies also plan to become more competitive in these same five years, and are showing new robustness that should make this international competition attractive to communications providers.