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The science and technology ministry decided Tuesday to integrate three government-affiliated space agencies and create a new space development organization by fiscal 2003.

The three agencies — all affiliated with the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry — are the National Space Development Agency of Japan, the Institute of Space and Astronautic Science (ISAS), and the National Aerospace Laboratory of Japan (NAL), science minister Atsuko Toyama said.

The move is in line with the government’s reform policy on government-affiliated special agencies. This is the first time since NASDA was established in 1969 that the government has undertaken such a drastic review of its space development policies.

The ministry said it will set up a panel to discuss plans for the integration next month, including procedures, details of the new organization and a schedule, as well as new legislation for the organization.

The three agencies have been discussing since April cooperation in technology development following a string of government rocket failures in 1999 and 2000.

For the current fiscal year, the three agencies are focusing on improving the reliability of the main engine of the newly developed H-IIA rocket for launching satellites as well as enhancing technology for solid rockets, among other projects, the ministry said earlier.

They are also considering sharing ground facilities to track satellite launches, and information and telecommunications infrastructure.

Japan aborted the launch of an H-II rocket in November 1999 after one of its engines abruptly halted, prompting ground command to blow up the rocket including the satellite it was carrying. The government also failed to put a satellite into orbit in February 2000 because of a glitch in the rocket engine.

NASDA is a special agency affiliated with the ministry and developed the H-IIA rocket, while the ISAS is a national research institution and handles scientific research such as planetary exploration using the M-5 rocket.

NAL is an independent administrative institution which studies transportation systems in aerospace.

The three agencies have a total of about 1,800 employees and have about 195 billion yen in total annual budget allocations.

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