Japan Seeks to Commercialize Space Program as ISS Effort Fizzles

Space News reports that that Japanese government wants to commercialize the nation’s space program even as another report shows outlines its dismal record in convincing business to use the Kibo module on the International Space Station:

The Japanese government wants to promote more private-sector space development by reorienting its spending away from its research focus and toward commercially oriented programs and crafting a new law to permit commercial launch services, Japanese government and industry officials said Sept. 28.

Addressing the 61st International Astronautical Congress here, these officials said the Japanese government’s recent decisions to develop the Epsilon small-satellite launcher and to extend the annual operating window for the heavy-lift H-2A rocket to year-round operations are examples of this new focus. So is the start of development of a 400-kilogram Earth observation satellite

Hiroshi Yamakawa, secretary-general of Japan’s Strategic Headquarters for Space Policy, created two years ago to streamline Japan’s government space bureaucracy, said the government is determined to create a more entrepreneurial space culture in Japan.

The next step in the process, he said, is a Space Activities Law, now being debated in the government, that among other things would provide third-party-liability coverage for launch vehicles developed outside the normal channels of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, JAXA.

You can read the full story here.

Meanwhile, The Yomiuri Shimbun reports that JAXA’s efforts to commercialize the International Space Station have fallen short:

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency has received few requests from private corporations wanting to lease space in the research module Kibo on the International Space Station, with the high cost thought to be a major reason for the lack of interest.

Under a pricing system introduced by JAXA in June last year, corporations can pay 5.5 million yen per hour to have astronauts from Japan, the United States or other nations carry out scientific experiments or other activities in Kibo.

JAXA expected to receive commissions for 10 to 30 hours per year, but orders have fallen well short of that, the agency said.

Since JAXA began leasing space in Kibo in September 2008, just four commercial operations have been conducted in the module. They include the shooting of TV commercials for chewing gum and cameras, and a project that involved keeping seeds in space for several months and later distributing them to children on Earth.

Looks like they’ve got to cut some prices here.