Center for Orbital and Suborbital Observations

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Since subjects of this research institute encompass natural phenomena over a wide region ranging from the Earth's surface to outer space, we are expected to perform empirical and advanced research by observations that are optimized for each region and phenomenon. In particular, collaborations between industry, academia, and the government have led to remarkable technological developments in observations by aircraft, balloons, sounding rockets, and spacecrafts, where progress has been made significantly around the world as well. At the Center for Orbital and Suborbital Observations, we take full advantage of the capabilities of an interdisciplinary collaborative research institute, based on a comprehensive perspective of the space-sun-Earth system. In addition to a ground-based observation network that has already been set up by research institutes and the Center preceding this institute, we develop and implement innovative observation projects in subjects and regions where orbital and suborbital observations are essential, and also promote the technological developments necessary for their implementation.

The Center for Orbital and Suborbital Observations plays a key role in aerial observation in Japan and, in cooperation with other organizations, promotes the direct and/or remote observation of water and materials recycling of the Earth's surface regions by aircraft. We also investigate and promote plans to observe space by sounding rockets and spacecrafts, while collaborating with institutions within Japan and overseas, in order to gain new insight about the physical phenomena that occur in the region between space and Earth.

At the same time, we help advance observation capabilities that will be required for future orbital and suborbital observations by efficiently integrating and sharing the observation technologies and development environments that are necessary for the next generation of instruments, and expanding our interdisciplinary activities. This will enable us to contribute to observation and technical research in related fields, together with researchers and engineers from Japan and overseas, which will lead to the development and implementation of orbital and suborbital observation projects that will bring together the entire fields in collaboration with modeling and ground-based observation.

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Here are some details about projects and technological developments that the Center is currently engaged in.

Construction of central base for Japan's aerial observation

Aerial observation has advantages in that it enables us to observe regions where there are no ground-based facilities and also be flexible in the observation. We can look forward to results that will bring breakthroughs in research, particularly in the direct observation of aerosols and research into interactions between aerosols and clouds, and also in the developmental process of typhoons. Unfortunately, factors such as cost and the need for technical knowhow to install instruments in aircraft have prevented the promotion of research by aerial observation. Nagoya University has a track record in actively promoting aerial observations, making use of its geographical advantage of being close to Nagoya Airport which is a hub for aerial observation within Japan. Organizations such as the Meteorological Society of Japan have great hopes for such observations. At this Center, we plan to create an environment that is efficient and which will also facilitate aircraft testing by building a central base for aerial observation that will be responsible for coordinating research into aviation observation and instrument installation techniques on to aircraft within Japan.

Observation of typhoons by aircraft1 Observation of typhoons by aircraft2
Observation of typhoons by aircraft

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Instrument development and observation of carbon dioxide altitude distribution using balloons

It is extremely important to think about coping with global warming in the future, by making detailed measurements of the concentrations in the atmosphere of the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) that cause this warming, and estimating the emission, generation, and absorption processes from the observation results. We use comparatively small balloons and are working on the development of devices for measuring the distribution of concentrations of the greenhouse gas CO2 as far as 10 km above the ground. We are measuring the distribution with altitude of CO2 in various regions in Japan and at different locations worldwide. A balloon-borne CO2 sonde can function regardless of the location even when there are clouds. It can also be compared with satellite data. If we can observe the altitude distribution by inexpensive balloon borne carbon dioxide meters, we will soon be able to complete the observation system that will be necessary for predicting climate change, by adding these observations to the existing meteorological observation network.

Launching of balloon-borne CO2 sonde
Launching of balloon-borne CO2 sonde

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Energization and Radiation in Geospace (ERG) project

The ERG satellite mission is an exploration project that is being developed at the JAXA Institute of Space and Astronautical Science with the objective of launching and starting observation within 2016. The former Solar-Terrestrial Environment Laboratory played a central role in investigation and formation of the proposal for this project. At this Center, we have contributed to the development of a number of space plasma particle analyzers to be installed in this ERG satellite, and calibration testing of the analyzers is being carried out using the clean room environment and particle beam line possessed by the electromagnetic sphere research division of this Institute.

Satellite mission to observe the ionosphere/magnetosphere in Earth's polar regions by a formation flight of probes

This is the world's first exploration project for performing state-of-the-art measurements with high temporal and spatial resolution by a formation flight of a number of spacecrafts in the ionosphere/magnetosphere of the Earth's polar regions. This will enable integrated observation of phenomena such as auroral emissions, global upper atmospheric particles, space plasma particle-waves, and electromagnetic fields. At this Center, we have made specific and detailed studies and proposals towards implementing this mission, while developing the next generation of analyzer that will measure space plasma and Earth's upper atmospheric particles.

Energization and Radiation in Geospace (ERG) project
Energization and Radiation in Geospace (ERG) project
Mission to observe electromagnetic sphere by a formation flight of probes
Mission to observe electromagnetic sphere by a formation flight of probes

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Development of 50-kg-class, micro-satellite ChubuSat

Since micro-satellites can greatly reduce development costs, observation instruments based on advanced and evolving technologies that would be risky with large satellites can be developed and installed quickly and tested in orbit. By reducing costs, we can also expect to create new industrial uses for satellites, which is intended to contribute greatly to stimulating the Chubu region which is a center for the aerospace industry.

ChubuSat-1 has already been launched in November 2014. We are currently developing a second satellite of which one of its aims is solar neutron observation, which is scheduled for launch in early 2016.

ChubuSat-1 attached to a rocket
ChubuSat-1 attached to a rocket

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