Japan Demonstrates 7 Technologies on Satellite Built by Startup Company

Arrangement of technologies aboard the RAPIS-1 satellite. (Credit: JAXA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

JAXA has announced the completion of its Rapid Innovative Satellite Technology Demonstration-1 (RAPIS-1) mission during which seven technologies were successfully demonstrated in Earth orbit.

Launched aboard an Epsilon rocket on Jan. 18, 2019 , the RAPIS-1 satellite demonstrated a X-band communications system, lightweight solar paddles, green propellant reaction control system, space particle monitor and three other technologies supplied by government, industry and academia.

“Through the operation of RAPIS-1 for about one year, we were able to achieve full success of all installed demonstration themes….We would like to express our deep gratitude to the related organizations and people for their cooperation and support in the development and operation of RAPIS-1,” JAXA said in a press release.

For the first time, the Japanese space agency turned over development of one of its satellites to a startup. Axelspace Co. developed RAPIS-1 for the agency is a short time period, going from design to launch in only about two years, the agency said.

Arrangement of technologies aboard the RAPIS-1 satellite. (Credit: JAXA)

The satellite bus features a standardized interface that made attaching instruments and equipment easier. The mission equipment and bus were independently designed to prevent failures of the former from affecting the latter, JAXA said.

The seven technologies tested and the results achieved are described below.

RAPIS-1 satellite deployed in orbit. (Credit: JAXA)

X-band 2-3 Gpbs Downlink Communications

Proposer: Keio University
Partners: The University of Tokyo, ISAS/JAXA

Description: A rain-resistant, power saving low-priced X-band communications with extremely high frequency usage efficiency.

Results: In the frequency band X band, we received at the Usuda station 10m antenna and achieved the world’s highest communication speed of 2.65Gbps. The results are also being utilized by private start-up companies.

Green Propellant Reaction Control System

Proposer: Japan Space Systems
Partners: ISAS/JAXA

Description: A low-cost, low-toxicity reaction control system with high density and high specific impulse that improves satellite operations while consuming less power.

Results: Low toxicity Hydroxyl Ammonium Nitrate  succeeded in injection on the world’s first orbit as a propulsion system that uses a SHP163 of system propellant. The injection in various modes, such as continuous injection and pulse injection, operated normally, and good results were obtained. 

Lightweight solar paddles deployed on the RAPIS-1 satellite. (Credit: JAXA)

Thin Membrane Solar Array Paddle

Proposer: JAXA
Partners: NEC Corporation, Sharp Corporation

Description: A lightweight solar paddle system with thin-film triple-junction solar cells.

Results: About one month after launch, we were able to successfully deploy the five thin panels. After that, we were able to continue to maintain the generated power as predicted for one year, demonstrating the world’s highest generated power/mass ratio. This paddle will be used in the deep space exploration technology demonstrator DESTINY.

NanoBridge Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA)

Proposer: NEC Corporation

Description: NanoBridge’s FPGA replaces configuration memory with a miniaturized system that features high immunity from radiation and low power consumption.

Results: No software error occurred even during the operation period, and we succeeded in the rewriting experiment, demonstrating the expected performance in the space environment. Based on this result, we are starting to study a business to popularize innovative FPGAs.

Space Particle Monitor

Proposer: Japan Space Systems

Description: Small, lightweight radiation environment measurement equipment that uses low cost consumer parts that can be delivered quickly to small satellite builders.

Results: After confirming that it has sufficient performance as a simple measuring device for investigating the cause of malfunction of equipment due to cosmic radiation, we can develop small, lightweight, low-priced equipment that can sufficiently compete with overseas competitors.

Innovative Deep Learning Altitude Sensor

Proposer: Tokyo Institute of Technology
Partners: Amanogi Corp., The University of Tokyo, Wakasa Wan Energy Research Center

Description: Inexpensive, off the shelf star trackers and Earth cameras use simple artificial intelligence algorithm that can roughly recognize land usage and plant distribution. Image recognition results applied to demonstrate new three axis attitude determination method.

Results: In addition to realizing the on-orbit real-time image recognition of visible light images using deep learning for the first time in the world, we were able to demonstrate on-orbit the 3-axis pose estimation using it. In addition, we have demonstrated the operation of an extremely inexpensive star tracker using consumer products, and succeeded in measuring the 13-second arc (RMS) attitude in orbit.

Based on the results of this demonstration, Tokyo Tech Venture Co., Ltd. Tennogi Co., Ltd. is promoting the commercialization of Star Tracker.

Miniature Space-borne Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) Receiver

Proposer: Chubu University
Partner: SensorComm Co., Ltd.

Description: The world’s smallest and ultra-low power space capable GNSS receiver designed for nanosats with limited power and mass budgets.

Results: GNSS for a conventional small satellite  compared to the receiver, was successfully demonstrated several times excellent high market competitive GNSS receiver in size, power consumption and price. As a result, we have achieved a sales record of 41 units for universities, research institutions, and private companies.