A diagram of a crew capsule being developed by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).
CREDIT: Kuniaki Shiraki/JAXA

Japan Wants Space Plane or Capsule by 2022

Rob Coppinger, SPACE Contributor
Date: 24 October 2012 Time: 07:00 AM ET

Japan hopes to be launching astronauts aboard a manned capsule or space plane by 2022, and the nation is also eyeing point-to-point suborbital transportation over the longer haul.

The capsule or mini-shuttle — which may resemble Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser space plane — would each accommodate a crew of three and carry up to 880 pounds (400 kilograms) of cargo, officials with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) said this month.

The mini-shuttle would weigh 26,400 pounds (11,975 kg) and land at one of five suitable runways worldwide. Because a launch abort from Japan’s Tanegashima Space Center would mean a Pacific Ocean landing, the space plane would also have to be able to cope with the sea.

JAXA is considering two different versions of the capsule, which would have a similar internal volume to SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft. The 15,400-pound (6,985 kg) variant employs parachutes, while the 19,800-pound (8,981 kg) model uses a more maneuverable parafoil for greater landing accuracy to within a 1.9-mile (3 kilometers) radius.

Read more: Japan Plans Manned Capsule or Space Plane by 2022 | Space.

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