Greetings from the Director

This organization “Space Tracking and Communications Center” was established in October 1969 by NASDA, the organization before JAXA, in anticipation of future space developments. It has been active since the earliest stage of JAXA operations. “Operations connecting Earth and Space” generally sums up what the organization does. JAXA works hard to prepare, maintain and operate the facilities required for tracking and controls, and to develop the technology and systems. They work together with various firms and organizations in Japan, as well as overseas organizations such as the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the European Space Agency (ESA). This ensures continuous and stable operations and further advancement of the network.

“Operations connecting the Earth and Space” generally involves three key things. The first is to maintain communications with spacecrafts using multiple parabolic antennas (earth stations). These vary in size from a diameter of 10m to 64m, and receive data telemetry from a variety of spacecrafts. They are also used to transmit instructions (commands) from the ground. The daily operations and maintenance of these antennas are indispensable for the communications network.

In order for the antennas to work perfectly, they must be pointed specifically towards the target spacecraft. So, accurate data acquisition regarding the position of the target spacecraft is the second key point we must focus on. Satellite behavior is anticipated using the orbital mechanics calculation, the satellite laser ranging technology (SLR (*1)) to gather accurate position data, as well as by using the autonomous positioning information from the satellite. The third key point is to use all this technology and data to deal with space debris that have become serious problems in recent years. The SSA (*2) system will become fully operational in 2023, and will monitor the position and behavior of debris to maintain safe operation of satellites. The most important thing overall here is that “Stable Operations” are maintained. For spacecraft such as satellites, connection with ground facilities to keep tracking and controls active at all times is essential. At no time can this be interrupted. To ensure this, the facilities and systems have been rigorously designed to be very robust and easy to maintain right from the planning stage. There is a lot of preventive maintenance to avoid possible problems during daily maintenance operations.

The development of new technology is an immense task, but very necessary to be able to respond to the ever-changing needs of cutting-edge technology. As the results of our efforts in recent years, the DTN (*3) significantly improved the accuracy of the communication system. The laser light reflector “Mt. Fuji (*4)” easily achieves high accuracy distance measurements of satellites, and the RABBIT (*5), a universal support tool for avoiding space debris is provided free of charge to the world.

The “RABBIT” in particular has attracted attention, and received the outstanding performance award in the “STI for SGDs” awards in FY2021, because it contributes significantly to SDGs in space. (*6)

The importance of space tracking and controls will increase and become even more important for communications in future missions. These include Lunar or Mercury Exploration Missions, maintaining efficient operation of an increasing number of satellites, and monitoring space debris. We would like to ask for your further understanding and support for the tracking and controls indispensable for space development, as well as the understanding that countless satellites enrich our daily lives.

*1: SLR: Satellite Laser Ranging
*2: SSA: Space Situational Awareness
*3: Delay/Disruption Tolerant Networking (DTN)
*4:Mt. FUJI...MulTiple reFlector Unit for SLR (MulTiple reFlector Unit from Jaxa Investigation)
*5:RABBIT...Risk Avoidance assist tool based on debris collision probability (Risk Avoidance assist tool based on debris collision proBaBIliTy)
*6: The “STI for SDGs” Award is organized by the Japan Science and Technology Agency and awarded for activities that are expected to contribute to the achievement of SDGs.