During an event at NASA’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., representatives from NASA and Japan signed a deal for future cooperation in space. NASA Administrator Bill Nelson and Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy represented NASA, with U.S. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken in attendance to sign the document. Japanese Minister for Foreign Affairs Hayashi Yoshimasa signed the agreement for Japan.
The agreement is called the “Framework Agreement Between the Government of Japan and the Government of the United States of America for Cooperation in Space Exploration and Use of Outer Space, Including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies, For Peaceful Purposes.”
President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris started work on the agreement with visits to Japan. In a statement released by NASA, Blinken stressed the importance of continuing existing partnerships in space.
“Through this agreement, our nations have strengthened our partnership in space and here on Earth. We will go farther and learn even more together,” Blinken said.
The United States’ ambassador to Japan, Rahm Emanuel, also attended the event. So did Japanese Ambassador to the U.S. Tomita Koji, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency President (JAXA) Yamakawa Hiroshi, and Deputy Assistant to the President and Executive Secretary of the National Space Council Chirag Parikh. NASA astronaut Anne McClain and JAXA astronaut Hoshide Akihiko also participated in the event.
The agreement covers topics such as potential future cooperation in space science, Earth science, space operations and exploration, aeronautical science and technology, space technology, space transportation, and safety and mission assurance.
Japan and the United States are already partners for the International Space Station and the upcoming Lunar Gateway station. Japan is also one of several countries that signed the Artemis Accords.
Japanese contributions to the International Space Station includes the Kibo model, which is also known as the Japanese Experiment Module. This module is used for a variety of scientific research and experiments. It includes a pressurized section and an exposed facility for conducting experiments in the space environment.
Japanese-built components also include exterior manipulators like the Remote Manipulator System (JEMRMS) and the Small Satellite Orbital Deployer (J-SSOD). The Remote Manipulator System can move equipment and experiments within the Kibo module, as well as to transfer cargo to and from the HTV cargo spacecraft. The Small Satellite Orbital Deployer is used to deploy CubeSats, NanoSats and other small satellites into space. J-SSOD is capable of deploying up to three CubeSats at a time, and it can be operated remotely by the JEMRMS robotic arm.
Japan also contributes to resupplying the International Space Station with the H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV) cargo spacecraft. The HTV spacecraft can carry up to six tons of cargo and supplies for the space station and bring back waste and used equipment.
Japan plans to contribute critical components for a habitation and research module for the Lunar Gateway. It is also developing an upgraded HTV-XG spacecraft, which will be capable of sending resupply missions to the Lunar Gateway. The first components of the Lunar Gateway could launch as early as May 2024 on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket.
The Framework Agreement will hopefully expand on existing and planned space-related cooperation between Japan and the United States.