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29 July 2012
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16 July 2012
Space Future has been on something of a hiatus of late. With the concept of Space Tourism steadily increasing in acceptance, and the advances of commercial space, much of our purpose could be said to be achieved. But this industry is still nascent, and there's much to do. this space.
9 December 2010
Updated "What the Growth of a Space Tourism Industry Could Contribute to Employment, Economic Growth, Environmental Protection, Education, Culture and World Peace" to the 2009 revision.
7 December 2008
"What the Growth of a Space Tourism Industry Could Contribute to Employment, Economic Growth, Environmental Protection, Education, Culture and World Peace" is now the top entry on Space Future's Key Documents list.
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P Collins, K Isozaki & R Wakamatsu, 1999, "Space Tourism in Japan - The Growing Consensus", 2nd International Symposium on Space Tourism, Bremen, April 21-23 1999.
Also downloadable from tourism in japan the growing consensus.shtml

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Space Tourism in Japan - the Growing Consensus
P Collins*, K Isozaki** and R Wakamatsu***

The paper surveys developments in Japan during the 2 years since the 1st International Symposium on Space Tourism was held in Bremen in March 1997. In particular it describes the activities of the Japanese Rocket Society's three research committees currently involved in its Space Tourism Study Program which was begun in 1993, namely the Transportation Research Committee, the Space Tourism Business Research Committee and the Commercial Space Transportation Legislation Research Committee. The paper also discusses current directions in which work on space tourism, though still controversial, is growing towards realisation.


The legitimacy and importance of work towards realising space tourism has been increasingly accepted during 1998 by major organisations around the world - notably by NASA (1), the American Institute for Astronautics and Aeronautics, AIAA (2), and the Japanese employers' federation Keidanren (3), in reports that recognise the unique promise of space tourism for commercialising space activities. Encouraged by this and by world-wide recognition of its Space Tourism Study Programme, the Japanese Rocket Society ( JRS) has continued its study since 1997, extending it to cover new areas.

Transportation Research Committee

The Transportation Research Committee published its 2nd Report, on the development and manufacturing costs of Kankoh-maru in 1997. The key output was the overall program cost estimate shown in Table 1.

Cost Item100 mNotes
aPreparatory Research315Technology Development
bDevelopment and Test6070Flight Test Schedule included
cTest Vehicles (4)7188Flight Test Vehicles
dProduction (48 vehicles)240688 Vehicles/year for 6 years
fAverage Selling Price716(b + c + d) / 52
Table 1: Kankoh-maru development and production cost estimates

The Transportation Research Committee's 3rd phase of activity, concerning the definition of "spaceworthiness" and the certification of Kankoh-maru for passenger carrying, started in 1997. Currently chaired by Mr Tsuruo Torikai of Fuji Aerospace Technology Ltd, since the previous Chairman Mr Kohki Isozaki of KHI Ltd became JRS President, the Committee's third Report is currently under preparation. Major issues identified to date are shown in Table 2.

ItemSpaceworthiness Consideration
1. GeneralCategories of Vehicle
       VTVL, VTHL, HTHL etc.
System Redundancy for Critical Failure
Critical Environment
      High Vacuum in Orbit
      Space Radiation
      Space Debris
2. FlightAbort Flight Operation Standard
      RTLS (Retum to Launch Site)
      TAL (Transoceanic Abort Landing)
      AOA (Abort Once Around)
      ATO (Abort to Orbit)
Highly Autonomous Flight Control and Management
Pilot-worthiness and Authority Requirement
3. Structure / Design and ConstructionLoad and Thermal Cycle for Various Flight Mode
Structure Verification Process on Ground
Design Requirement
      Cyclic Thermal and Load Stress due to Reentry Heat Load and Cryogenic Propellant
      Space Radiation
      Space Debris
      Out-gas and Off-gas Material
4. PowerplantReusability under Endo- and Exo-atmospheric Condition
Cryogenic Propellant Engine System
Redundancy Requirement for Various Abort Mode
5. EquipmentAuthority between Pilot and Autonomous Control
Environmental Control and Life Support System
      Partial Pressure of Oxygen and Nitrogen
      Removal of Carbonic Acid Gas
      Temperature and Humidity Control
      Trace Contamination Removal
Space Clothing
      Extra Vehicular Activity Suit
      In-flight Suit.
6. Operation limitations and informationEstablishment of Operation
      information / Operating Limitations
      Flight Manual
Table 2: Major issues for Kankoh-maru Certification, from (4)

A 4th phase of the Transportation Research Committee's study is currently being planned. This will apply the results of the 3rd phase study, as summarised in the 3rd Report, to the initially published design of Kankoh-maru, revising it as considered necessary to enable it to be certified for passenger-carrying along the lines of aircraft certification.

Rocket Symposia

During 1998, the JRS Academic Affairs Committee published the book "Issues for the Realisation of Airline-type Rockets" comprising an edited version of the proceedings of four "Rocket Symposium" held during fiscal year 1996. These concerned the many technical and other issues relating to the design and operation of rockets for passenger space transportation that had arisen out of the JRS Space Tourism Study Programme as of 1997, as listed in Table 3.

1st Symposium

  • Some Consideration on Design Estimation of Spaceship Kankoh-maru
  • Kankoh-maru - Weight Reduction of Structure/Thermal Protection System
  • Current Issues of Kankoh-maru Engines
  • Considerations on Light Weight Structure for SSTO
  • Consideration of VTOL Return Trajectories
  • Performance Requirements for SSTO Landing Gear

2nd Symposium

  • Issues for Planning Commercial Space Tourism Rockets
  • Cabin Noise Levels and Means of Suppression
  • Conceptual Study of Ground Operation of Spaceship: Kankoh-maru
  • Kankoh-maru Safety Planning: Considerations from Airliner Safety
  • Proposal for Airbed- and Hammock-style Passenger Seats

3rd Symposium

  • Regulations for Space Navigation
  • Emergency Exit for Aircraft
  • How to Think on Aviation Safety and its Application to Space Tourism
  • Operation of Passenger-Carrying VTOL Rockets

4th Symposium

  • A Rocket Engineer's Confession: Successes and Failures to Date
  • Noise Production by Rocket Exhaust and Feasibility of Suppression
  • What Airlines Will Require of Spaceships
  • Feasibility of Application of Commercial Technologies
  • What is Required for the Development by Civil Investment - Comparison with Civil Engines


  • The DC-X Project and America's Next Generation Space Transportation System
  • JRS Solicitation of Design Proposal for Spaceship "Mikado"
Table 3: The issues covered in JRS Rocket Symposia (5)
Space Tourism Business Research Committee

In 1998 also the JRS Business Research Committee published its Final Report on the operation and estimated operating costs of Kankoh-maru, based on the earlier estimate of its selling price by the Transportation Research Committee. This concluded that a price of $25,000 per passenger for an orbital flight would enable operators to achieve a profit rate of 10% initially rising to 20%, on passenger numbers growing at some 100,000 passengers/year/year, in line with the Transportation Research Committee's scenario of manufacturing 8 Kankoh-maru vehicles/year.

Future steps of the JRS Space Tourism Study Program are under consideration, one possible topic being the specification of a VTOL rocket demonstrator vehicle. The specification of a demonstrator will be a most important decision with major implications for the progress of this work in Japan for many years to come. In particular, if a demonstrator vehicle is insufficiently ambitious then it will delay Japanese manufacturers aiming to play a role in this field. However, a more ambitious project would be more expensive, more risky and requires more outstanding leadership.

The range of opinions concerning the "X Prize" competition (6) is instructive: For some rocket engineers a sub-orbital vehicle capable of reaching only 100 km altitude, even though piloted, is of little interest because it is technically easy and would waste time that could be focused on the more difficult challenge of developing an orbital passenger vehicle. However, for those trying to raise commercial investment to develop passenger launch vehicles, a technically easy and uncontroversial project requiring a relatively modest level of investment which can be estimated with confidence is relatively attractive. Companies flying such a vehicle repeatedly would accumulate operating statistics, develop maintenance procedures, stimulate necessary regulatory innovation, generate popular support, and demonstrate to investors that rocket passenger transport is a mature technology - thereby preparing for raising the much larger investment required to develop an orbital vehicle.

Commercial Space Transportation Legislation Research Committee

In September 1998 a new committee, the Commercial Space Transportation Legislation Research Committee was established under the Chairmanship of Mr Yoshiyuki Funatsu, aviation consultant, to study the range of legal and regulatory issues other than those relating to vehicle certification that must be resolved in order to realise a space tourism industry (7). Its activities are thus closely complementary to the other two committees.

With membership largely from the aviation industry, this committee is building bridges from the rocket community to the civil aviation community, which has extensive experience of operating advanced-technology passenger-carrying vehicles in great safety around the world. This is made more relevant by the recent rapid progress by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in conceptualising the new regulations needed by 2005 to integrate space traffic and air traffic (8). It is worth remembering that aviation authorities in several countries already have experience of rocket-powered aircraft operations, including both Rocket-Assisted Take-Off ( RATO / JATO) aircraft and true rocket-planes which were used in several countries' Air Forces as long ago as the 1950s. In view of the trend under way to commercialise NASA's activities, it seems likely that the evolution of government space activities will belatedly follow the precedent of aviation, with governments' role being progressively cut back from operations to supporting research - and the majority of activities being passenger transportation.

VTOL Test Vehicle

In parallel with the work described above, engineers at the Institute for Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS) have developed and test-flown a small-scale reusable VTOL rocket powered by a liquid hydrogen rocket engine, as a test vehicle for a reusable sounding rocket that is being proposed (9, 10). This work is a useful foundation for the design of a piloted, VTOL demonstrator vehicle, which is an essential intermediate step towards realising the Kankoh-maru commercial passenger vehicle.

Figure 1: Japan's first reusable rocket: ISAS experimental VTOL flying on March 25, 1999 at Noshiro, Japan

In addition to the JRS' work and other technical work described above, progress has also been made in a number of other areas heading in the direction of commercialisation. Having started to develop space technology capabilities rather later than the USA and Europe, the Japanese government still views space activities predominantly as a field for research and technology development funded by the government, rather than as a field for commercialisation as NASA increasingly does, pressed by the Republican-dominated US Congress.

Despite this, as an example of the spread of these ideas, in September 1998, the Aerospace Committee of the Keidanren, one of the largest business organisations in Japan, published a new edition of their pamphlet " Space in Japan" with 10 pages describing space technology development work in Japan - most of it technically very successful (3). On the last page the Kankoh-maru project is discussed, the only private project mentioned in the pamphlet, and the last sentence states: "We have high expectations of space tourism for the commercialization of space activities." Thus, although commercialisation is still discussed relatively rarely in the Japanese space industry, where it is discussed space tourism is now typically recognised as the central prospect.

In 1998 also Spacetopia Inc, a Japanese travel company planning to specialise in space tourism services as they become available, was founded, and it is currently involved in a range of activities contributing towards this end (12).

Although the full promise of space tourism is still not appreciated by most of the general public, it is receiving increasing exposure in the mainstream media: in Aviation Week & Space Technology, Time magazine, Stern, the Japanese Nihon Keizai Shinbun, the British Financial Times, television channels such as Nihon Television in Japan, the Discovery Channel, the BBC news in Britain, and the David Letterman Show in the USA.

Japan has also seen the largest commercial campaign relating to space tourism to date, in which Pepsi-Japan offered sub-orbital flights to five customers through a sweepstake. This was considered a great success, generating 650,000 responses from the general public, and helping Suntory Inc to increase sales of Pepsi-Cola more than 30% in the first half of 1998.

In a campaign that also generated an unexpectedly strong response, Japanese National Space Development Agency (NASDA) astronaut Dr Chiaki Mukai invited members of the public to complete a short poem concerning living in zero gravity that she started on her flight in late 1998 with John Glenn. 140,000 members of the public took the trouble to write an ending to the poem and send it to her on a postcard - showing once again that living in space is an extremely popular idea with the Japanese public.

The Real "Space Race"

As more companies - now including airlines, hotel chains, real estate developers and even film studios - start to move towards participating in the development of space tourism - we can say that a new "space race" is starting - the real space race, that is, the race to earn profits from providing space flight services to the general public. Consequently, if governments do not take appropriate and timely steps to ensure that the budgets they provide for space activities help their national industries to participate in this new industry, by developing relevant and competitive commercial capabilities, they will lose a unique and important opportunity for future economic growth (13).

However, once the idea is accepted that space activities, like other industrial fields, should contribute to economic growth, the development of commercial space tourism has to be recognised as important and economically desirable. Furthermore, research on a wide range of new topics becomes relevant, which are different from the research supported by space agencies today. Seen from the point of view of being valuable for supporting a commercial space tourism industry, new research topics become important in every field of space technology. Some examples are listed in the following.

Life Sciences:

  • Short-term orbital stays by average people - not long-term stays by unusual people
  • Tests of the full range of anti-motion sickness medications
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Treatment of colds, nasal congestion, influenza and other ailments in micro-gravity


  • Design for Ease of Maintenance (DEM, widely applied in other industrial sectors) applied to rocket engines and vehicles
  • Accumulation of operating data on rocket reuse (including study of historical RATO data)
  • Rocket engine reliability increase
  • Rocket engine noise suppression
  • Cost reduction rather than mass reduction


  • Optimising the size of the first orbital passenger craft
  • Optimisation for specified routes/services
  • Orbital propellant storage / in-space photo-voltaic electrolysis of water / in-space cryogenic liquid transfer

Orbital Accommodation:

  • Large windows
  • Micro-gravity plumbing
  • Facilities for large populations (100 + guests)
  • Cost reduction through mass production
  • Rotating units

Legal issues:

  • Development of aviation regulations to cover space flight (as pioneered by FAA)
  • Jurisdiction in orbit
  • Liability for damage
  • Space salvage


  • Early contribution to vehicle design
  • Aviation example: "AVN 67B of space"
  • Legal jurisdiction

Commercial lunar development:

  • Ice utilisation
  • Water export to LEO

In addition, a whole range of other industries, many very large, which have been excluded until now from space activities will find substantial and profitable roles with the development of space tourism, including fields such as Interior Design, Cooking and Food Preparation, Fashion and Hair-Styling, and Entertainment.


The potential of space tourism - that is, commercial flights to and from space by members of the public - is becoming increasingly recognised, and sub-orbital space flights may start within as soon as a few years. Reaching the full commercial potential of space tourism will require the development of both passenger transportation and orbital accommodation, for which substantial amounts of investment need to be raised.

One possible obstacle to Japanese companies' participation is the US government's "Super 301" Omnibus Trade Law which has been (and continues to be) used to prevent the Japanese government subsidising companies competing with US manufacturers of commercial satellites. There is a danger that, because of Japan's persistent large trade surplus with the USA, this law may be used also to prevent Japanese companies receiving funds to catch up with commercial US space transportation companies. The most effective counter-measure to this danger would be for Japanese development work to be accelerated - that is, for some portion of the approximately $3,000 million that Japanese taxpayers currently pay for civilian space activities that will not be commercialised to be used to help Japanese companies participate in this commercially promising project - but that will require a change of government policy towards human space activities.

Governments in every country are slow to react to changing circumstances. Space agencies in every country are still trying to defend their receipt of large amounts of government funding for their existing activities rather than adopt a new paradigm for their work which recognises the goal of commercialisation. In Japan neither the government ministry which is responsible for ISAS, nor the agency which is responsible for NASDA, is responsible for commercialisation. Consequently, adapting to the newly developing economic situation in space will require unprecedented flexibility by government departments. For the time being, as economic restructuring in Japan slowly progresses, it remains unclear what role Japanese manufacturers and other companies will play in the realisation of the new industry of popular space tourism.

  1. D O'Neil et al, 1998, "General Public Space Travel and Tourism - Volume 1 Executive Summary", NASA/STA, NP-1998-03-11- MSFC, also downloadable from
  2. M Gerard and P Jefferson (eds), 1998, " International Cooperation in Space: New Government and Industry Relationships", Report of an AIAA/ CEAS/ CASI workshop, AIAA, also downloadable from
  3. Anon, 1998, " Space in Japan", Keidanren Space Committee, (in Japanese).
  4. K Isozaki et al, 1998, "Status Report on Space Tour Vehicle Kankoh-maru of Japanese Rocket Society", Proceedings of 49th IAF Congress.
  5. M Nagatomo, ed, 1998, " Issues for the Realisation of Airline-Type Rockets", JRS Academic Affairs Committee, 130 pp.
  7. Y Funatsu, 1999, "Some Aspects of Aviation Law", Proceedings of 2nd ISST.
  8. P Smith, 1999, "Concept of Operations in the National Airspace System in 2005", Version 1.0, FAA Commercial Space Transportation
  9. Y Naruo et al, 1997, "Throttling Dynamic Response of LH2 Rocket Engine for Vertical Landing Rocket Vehicle", Proceedings of 7th ISCOPS, AAS Vol 96, also downloadable from
  10. Y Inatani and Y Naruo, 1998, " A System Consideration of Reusable Sounding Rocket", Proc 21st ISTS, Paper no ISTS-98-o-1-11v.
  11. Y Naruo, 1998, " Towards the Realisation of Low-Cost Space Transportation Systems", SPS 2000 News, ISAS, No16, pp 8-9.
  13. P Collins, 1999, "Space Activities, Space Tourism, and Economic Growth", Proceedings of 2nd ISST, also downloadable from
P Collins, K Isozaki & R Wakamatsu, 1999, "Space Tourism in Japan - The Growing Consensus", 2nd International Symposium on Space Tourism, Bremen, April 21-23 1999.
Also downloadable from tourism in japan the growing consensus.shtml

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