Corporate Strategy for Dramatic Productivity:



Business Opportunities

 in Ultracompact Orbiter Development

by Professor Emeritus Akira Ishikawa

Aoyama Gakuin University, Tokyo, Japan

Former Dean, GSIPEB

Senior Research Fellow, ICC Institute, University of Texas at Austin

Doctoral Program Chair



Establishment of the Low-Priced Space Utilization Process


When speaking of new products and new businesses that are producing remarkable super effects, we cannot do without mentioning the effects the artificial satellite and its development and business operations have on the space aviation industry.


In 1990, after the American trade policy “ Super 301” was put into effect, by agreement Japan had to make international bids for its satellites, even if they were to be used domestically for commercial purposes. However, since Japan had not been mass manufacturing satellites, its satellites were costly, making it unable to compete with the commercial satellites of European and American companies, which had been producing low-cost satellites through bulk production. For this reason, for example, for the successive satellites of “ Himawari No. 5” Japan was put into the situation of having to purchase from a U.S. corporation the Multifunctional Transport Satellite (MITSAT).


To recover from such humiliation, the direction of Japan’s artificial satellite development turned toward compact and ultracompact (or nano) sized satellites. Until several years ago, satellite development mainly focused on large-sized satellites that weighed over 500kg and never cost less than 50 billion yen. Such satellites included the Mobile Broadcasting Satellite (MBSat) for movable bodies used by both Japan and Korea for communication and broadcast functions, weighing over 4,000 kg, and the Advanced Land Observing Satellite (ALOS), “Daichi ”. Certainly this was a major detriment toward commercialization, and what was worse was that the more Japan tried to improve its reliability, the price of exclusive parts tended to rise from several thousand times to tens of thousands times the price of generic parts.


For this reason, by the 1990s, the domestic content of the major parts of artificial satellites, which used to be 70%, became less than 30% with major companies pulling back.


However, what we should not overlook is the fact that a 10 cm3, 1 kgclass nano satellite has actually been flown into space.


For example, ever since Tokyo University’s so-called CubeSat sized satellite XI-IV (sai-four), which is shown in Fig. 42.1, and Tokyo Institute of Technology’s CubeSat sized satellite CUTE-I satellite was successfully launched in June 2003, the number of miniaturized satellite productions and launches from mainly universities and town workshops has seen a gradual increase.


What is driving this rise is the objective to establish a speedy, space utilization process, and gaining a competitive edge in satellite development.




Fig. 42.1 CubeSat’s Satellite XI-IV (Sai-four)

Source: Nakasuga Laboratory, To kyo University, “Tokyo University CubeSat Project”


In effect, the aim is to realize a double-digit reduction in costs, including the cost of launching, that is around 1/500th of the previous cost so as to bring it down from an average of 50 billion yen to 100 million yen and shorten the time from order to delivery to around one and a half years and also aim to make it possible to carry out swift space demonstrations of new technologies and the development of new space utilizations. In addition, they are also examining issues related to acquisitions of communication frequencies and damage compensations, problems related to infrastructural arrangements and use to advance preparations for the commercialization of miniaturized and nano satellites.


Venture Business and Parts Research


In recent times, what has further strengthened this movement is the formation of the “ Next-Generation Space System Technology Research Union,” a collaboration between venture companies based in Yokohama that are developing components for artificial satellites and the researchers of Tokyo University. This union’s target is to keep the cost of artificial nano satellites that can be used in natural resource explorations to around one-tenth of its current cost and make a foray into the global market.


What was fortunate was that the union was recognized by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology as an enterprise eligible to be part of the “ Advanced Research and Development Support Program” and was earmarked to receive a total budget of 4,100 million yen by 2013. This program was included in the Ministry’s 2009 supplementary budget.


Presently there are five participating companies, including Orbital Engineering, a small business in charge of insulation specifications for satellites and AXELSPACE Corporation, a venture business that originated in Tokyo University. This group will be led by Professor Nakasuka Shinichi of Tokyo University’s School of Engineering and will begin development with the cooperation of researchers from at least eight universities as well.


For the future, to overcome the issues of a vast development cost, constraints of the launching location, and timing constraints including adjustments to be made with concerned local fisheries, they are beginning to consider an air launch system for the artificial satellites, just like for the H2A rocket, Japan’s major large-scale rocket. This would entail attaching a satellite-loaded rocket to an aircraft and launching it from a considerable height above the high seas. Consequently, the plan calls for separating the satellite and releasing it into orbit.


U.S. Companies Begin to Pursue


However Japan cannot afford to be negligent even in matters of a nano satellite launch such as this one.


For example in August 2009, the American company Interorbital Systems announced that it will launch a service called “ TubeSat Personal Satellite Kit” from the fourth quarter of 2010, which is a low cost satellite service for individuals, costing only 8,000 dollars per day.


The finished satellite is slated to be launched into low orbit at an altitude of 310 km using the company’s rocket NEPTUNE30. The control and management of the satellite after launch, however, is to be carried out by the purchaser of the kit through the use of an amateur radio band.




1. Intelligent Space Systems Laboratory (Nakasuka Laboratory), The University

of Tokyo, 7,000 days have transpired since the completion of the XI Series,

Tokyo University CubeSat Project. Available at (20110528).


This paper was excerpted from Dr. Ishikawa’s upcoming new book, “Corporate Strategy for Dramatic Productivity,” published by World Scientific Publishing Company. Copyright 2013 Akira Ishikawa and WSPC ( The paper featured above comprises Chapter 42; additional selected chapters will be featured in upcoming issues of this Journal.


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