Abe approves new space policy with profit, security in mind

Kyodo, Staff Report

The Abe administration approved a new space development policy Friday that focuses less on science and more on security and how to make piles of cash.

Under the 10-year Basic Plan on Space Policy, the administration said it will improve cooperation with the United States in the area of security while aiming to boost the value of Japan’s space industry to ¥5 trillion over the next decade.

“We have been able to make a long-term, specific plan that factors in the (nation’s) new security policy,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said at a meeting Friday on space strategy.

The move comes amid mounting public concern over the use of space technologies for defense.

Of 720 public comments submitted last month on the draft of the policy, 68 people were opposed to using space for military purposes and another 17 specifically said Japan should restrict its use of space to non-military purposes.

“The use of outer space is indispensable to maintaining security today,” the policy document states. “We will engage in space development to directly utilize it for our nation’s diplomatic and security policies, as well as for the Self-Defense Forces.”

The new policy calls for reducing the danger of space debris by establish debris monitoring systems that share data with the U.S.

Japan also plans to launch a network of seven “quasi-zenith satellites” over the next 10 years to complement America’s GPS system.

In fiscal 2015, one of Japan’s primary goals will be to perfect the launch capability of the Epsilon solid-fuel rocket.

In fiscal 2020, the government aims to develop the first replacement for its mainstay HII-A rocket.

Regarding space exploration, Japan plans to launch three midsize satellites and five small satellites.

Regarding the U.S. proposal to extend the life span of the International Space Station to 2024, Japan is to make a decision by the end of fiscal 2016, the policy document states.

Japan had long limited its use of space to peaceful purposes based on a Diet resolution passed in 1969. Japan has been wary on using space for defensive purposes, even though the government lifted the ban on that in 2008.