ESA, Japan Remain Committed to Space Cooperation with U.S.

ESA, Japan Remain Committed to Space Cooperation with U.S.

Despite concerns that NASA’s withdrawal from two joint Mars missions with the European Space Agency (ESA) would chill the waters for future space cooperation agreements, both ESA and Japan have recently made clear that they remain committed to working with the United States.

At ESA’s request, NASA recently sent a letter expressing its interest in participating in ESA’s newly-selected Jupiter Icy moons Explorer (JUICE) program.  NASA Planetary Science Division Director Jim Green told the NASA Advisory Council’s Planetary Science Subcommittee last week that NASA told ESA it would like to be a “minor partner” in JUICE with a payload contribution totalling $100 million over the life of the project.   ESA announced its selection of JUICE as its next large science mission on May 2. 

Green particularly thanked Tammy Dickinson at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) for helping NASA reply to ESA’s request expeditiously.   NASA’s Joan Salute later said ESA is planning to issue the Announcement of Opportunity (AO) for JUICE in June in preparation for instrument selection in January 2013.  Launch is planned for 2022 and it will take eight years to reach Jupiter.   Green said NASA plans to provide “a significant portion” of the payload, although negotiations on precisely what it will provide have not yet begun. 

Separately, as part of Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s meeting with President Obama on April 30, the two countries announced a number of cooperative initiatives including space cooperation.  Recognizing 42 years of joint space activities, the statement said the two countries “have committed to deepen civil space cooperation through early conclusion of a Framework Agreement on the peaceful exploration and use of outer space” and by pursuing specific activities that include:

  • cooperation between the U.S. GPS system and Japan’s Quasi-Zenith Satellite System;
  • collaboration on earth observation missions; and
  • continuation of International Space Station operations beyond 2016.

The two countries also agreed to deepen their “security partnership in space” through transparency and confidence building measures (TCBMs) including an International Code of Conduct and a framework for space situational awareness.

NASA has a long history of international cooperation in space dating back to its founding in 1958.   Europe and Japan have partnered with NASA on many space science and applications projects over many decades.   A Japanese satellite, GCOM-W1 (or Shikuzu), for example, is scheduled for launch from Tanegashima this Thursday, May 17, Eastern Daylight Time (May 18 in Japan) as part of the NASA-led “A-Train” earth observing satellite constellation.   Europe and Japan also are partners with the United States, Russia, and Canada in the International Space Station program.

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