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The Forefront of Space Science

Electric Rocket: Game-Changing Technology
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Encouraged by the return of HAYABUSA, we started development of HAYABUSA-2. It will employ a thrust-upgraded version of the microwave discharge-type ion engine, specifically 10mN rather than the current 8mN, and is to be launched in 2014. The Space Transportation Engineering Department of ISAS is promoting R&D of various electric- rocket technologies, not only the ion engine but also the DC arc-jet, MPD arc-jet, Hall thruster, and Teflon thruster as shown in Fig.2. With such a lineup, we intend to lead space research and development.

Figure 2
Figure 2. Various types of electric rockets


The question "Why is coming second not acceptable?" was posed from the administration to the academic community. The R&D community should firmly argue against it to the public. We can only have a chance to be number one if we aim at first place. If we target second place from the start, we will be left behind with the rest. Meanwhile, within the community, we must dedicate ourselves to social welfare and benefit by exploring and completing world-class technologies, and demonstrating practical applications in a shorter time. We must also control ourselves strictly. We must never become self-absorbed in R&D, never set our own self-righteous targets, and never proceed with activities by escaping from reality. Space development in the past was intrusive, i.e., SEED-type. We must remember that we lost sight of the NEED-type concept that takes users into account.

Japan is currently at a social impasse - the country faces a declining population while its gross domestic product (GDP) has fallen to third place in the world. It is said that Japan is now in the "recession phase" as an entire nation. As if to add insult to injury, Japan was struck by the great earthquake. We need to wipe away the pessimistic mood, return to the former Japan, and move forward. I believe that the future can be opened only by innovative, inventive and revolutionary approaches, irrespective of the traditional concept. We should go forward just as HAYABUSA fearlessly tackled and overcame the many problems in its way and finally returned to the earth with its load of samples. Let's make game-change.

Hitoshi Kuninaka

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