The process of how a "government space mission" is initiated is kind of an interesting question to me. In the US and Europe, one has to deal with a series of institutions, agencies, politicians, write proposals, submit stuff, get it reviewed, lobby, make feasibility studies, call for instruments, go through certain phases of development, pass defined reviews e.t.c., before a mission reaches a state where it can (or can not) be approved for being fully build towards an actual launch. A lot of good ideas die along the way before any piece of hardware is ever integrated. I have e.g. some understanding of how this works for ESA projects, but none of the stuff coming from JAXA. They actually build and launch really cool hardware, such as Hayabusa.

I would like to know how a robotic government (as opposed to fully private) space mission in Japan comes together. Where does it start? Who is setting up the programs? What are the steps? Who is calling for mission concepts (if this is the way they handle it)? Who is developing the concepts? Which government authorities, besides JAXA, are involved? Who needs to approve it and when? How is the funding handled (funding agencies etc)? Where do universities fit in? How does JAXA manage projects? Who is building the stuff (agencies in house or industry via contracts)?


Probably the best description of JAXA's process is the example provided on JAXA's website of the Development of the ASCA (ASTRO-D) Project. This example is in line with JAXA's ISAS Mission Selection Procedures:

ISAS Mission Selection Procedures

ISAS has a character of an inter-university research institute, and is run in cooperation with scientists and engineers across the nation. Mission proposals are solicited from the team, and mission selections are made by committees comprising about equal numbers of internal and external members. Approved projects are then implemented with the collaboration of scientists and engineers, again both inside and outside ISAS.

The first stage of the mission selection is endorsement by the Steering Committee of Space Science or the Steering Committee of Space Engineering. Each Committee consists of about 30 members, about half of which are from outside ISAS. The process usually starts with the formation of a Working Group under the Committee.

Comprising scientists and engineers, the Working Group defines objectives, identifies scientific requirements and performs feasibility studies. When planning is complete, the Working Group proposes the mission to the respective committee depending on the nature of the mission. The Committee studies the proposal from various aspects including scientific significance, technical and financial feasibility, and maturity of the group behind the mission. When intensive study is needed, a subcommittee is created for a detailed assessment which sometimes results in setting priorities among multiple proposals.

A Committee's decision to endorse a specific mission proposal is reported promptly to the Director General. In case both Committees endorse new missions starting in the same fiscal year, priority may be recommended by the Director of Project Coordination.

Working Groups do not receive funds for their studies. However, the development of hardware technologies essential for future missions is supported by a "basic development fund" after being refereed by groups appointed by the above Committees.

The second stage of mission selection is the decision at the Advisory Council for Research and Development. The Council, whose 21 members again comprise roughly equal numbers of internal and external members, is the principal decision-making body of the Institute, and it deals also with budgets and appointments.

The selected mission is then proposed to the government both for mission approval by the Space Activities Commission and for budget allocation by the Ministry of Finance. The selection process is completed by a Diet resolution. A proposal for the new start from a given fiscal year (which starts on April 1) must be submitted to the government in June of the previous year.

Source & Copyright: Courtesy of JAXA (In accordance with JAXA website's Scope and Conditions for Use of the Contents of the Site)

Hope this helps, or is at least a starting point.

  • $\begingroup$ @DeerHunter - Done. I had to include all of it, to comply with "no modification" condition of their Terms of Use. Attribution is also required. Just dropping this comment as a note to future editors, or whoever might question legality of copying "the lot". Cheers! ;) $\endgroup$ – TildalWave Aug 7 '13 at 2:38

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