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- Science and Application of Earth observation satellites -

JAXA established the Earth Observation Research Center in April 1995 and the Satellite Applications and Operations Center (then- Satellite Applications and Promotion Center) in May 2006. As a core agency to develop Earth observation satellites in Japan, we are promoting Earth observation, data analysis and application research. By monitoring the earth environment from the space, we are aiming to contribute to strengthening national resilience including disaster management and addressing global challenges.


Greetings – Future vision of Earth observation –

Toward contribution to society by Earth observation satellites


HIRABAYASHI Takeshi, Senior Chief Officer of Earth Observation Missions,
Space Technology Directorate I

More than five years have passed since three important global agendas were adopted in 2015; the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s), the Paris Agreement on climate change and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. Damages caused by meteorological disasters are increasing year by year and the scale is expanding. For example, Typhoon HAGIBIS (TY1919) caused extreme damage over a wide area in 2019 and the heavy rain happened in the area center on Kumamoto Pref. and other regions in Kyushu, Chubu in July 2020. With increasing threat of natural phenomena, it is important to understand the current status of the Earth and forecast on the future to ensure the safety of the lives of people and lead to a prosperous future.

Earth observation satellites have captured the changes of global environment due to human activity, such as decrease of tropical and other forests, ozone depletion, and increase in carbon dioxide concentration. Also, the satellites are utilized for various fields including disaster countermeasures, climate, agriculture, forestry and fisheries, etc. In order to conserve the global environment and build a society in harmony with nature, it is necessary to understand the picture of global environment including climate change, deepen comprehensive understanding of the Earth system clarifying the mechanism and interaction of the phenomena on the planet, and improve future prediction of global environment. For this purpose, it is important to observe the entire globe in addition to ground-based observations. Global observation using satellites is one of the most effective ways.

The Basic Plan on Space Policy which establishes basic policy of space development in Japan was revised after 5 years on June 30, 2020. The policy includes the goal related with Earth observation satellites; “Contributing to disaster management, national resilience, and resolving global issues”. In JAXA, Earth Observation Research Center (EORC) and Satellite Applications and Operations Center (SAOC) are operating a variety of Earth observation satellites and conducting analysis/application research of observed data in cooperation with domestic and international related organizations. We will promote our activities to use satellite data for the benefit of society aiming to contribute to climate change and other global issues, disaster management and national resilience, as well as the SDGs and agriculture, forestry and fisheries.

(Written in July 2021)

EORC’s role in earth observation field


HAYASAKA Tadahiro, Advisor to the Director General of EORC, Space technology Directorate Ⅰ

Today, more than 7.7 billion people live on the planet Earth, where global warming, global environmental problems, large-scale natural disasters, etc. occur frequently, and their intertwining complexity makes our future more uncertain. In recent years, abnormal weather such as floods, heat waves and droughts have been occurring repeatedly around the world. In July 2019, heat waves hit Europe with the highest temperature of 42.6℃ in Paris, France. Also, long-term and widespread forest fires caused serious damage not only for human society but also for wildlife and vegetation during 2019 in Australia. Japan is no exception, and it is still fresh in our memories that the typhoons No. 15 and No. 19, which occurred in 2019, caused severe damage. Even after the Great East Japan Earthquake in March 2011, earthquakes in Kumamoto and Hokkaido caused serious damage. Observations over a wide area with earth observation satellites are important to accurately understand the status of these disasters and global environmental change and to clarify the mechanisms and take countermeasures.

It has been almost 60 years since the image of the earth was firstly taken by vidicon camera on board TIROS 1 launched in April 1960. Currently, a variety of wavelengths including ultraviolet, visible, infrared, and microwave are used in satellites observation. So it is available to quantitatively capture the complex phenomena occurring on the Earth’s surface, such as physical properties of clouds, aerosols and precipitation, estimation of greenhouse gas emission, the relationship between changes in land use and socio-economic activities, changes in sea surface temperature, sea ice and snow ice area and those relationship with climate change. In addition, it is also possible to grasp the high-resolution topography using synthetic aperture radar, and to catch the actual aspects of precipitation and clouds in three dimensions with precipitation radar and cloud profiling radar.

Based on the background described above, JAXA EORC collaborates with domestic and overseas researchers and research institutes to open new frontiers of knowledge, disaster prevention, industry and security in a broader sense by taking advantage of Japan’s strengths of science and technology. EORC will promote research and technological development of satellite to contribute to creating a better society and a better future.

(Written in April 2020)


In JAXA, Earth observation research and promotion of data application are conducted in four organizations: the Earth Observation Research Center, the Satellite Applications and Operations Center, the Earth Observation Center, and the Regional Satellite Applications Center for Disaster Management.

■ About Earth Observation Research Center

The Earth Observation Research Center (EORC) was founded in April 1995 to conduct acquisition and processing of Earth observation satellite data and application research.
Main activities of EORC are as below.

(1) Analysis of satellite data and scientific research

We analyze observation data acquired by Earth observation satellites, develop algorithms to derive geophysical parameters, calibrate and validate satellite data, and try to maintain the quality of the data.
We also promote application research of satellite data in the fields of meteorology, management of forestry and fisheries resources, disaster prevention and national land use, and global environmental changes. EORC organizes Research Project to conduct these activities smoothly.

(2) Research on observing sensor/Development and operation of the ground data handling system

(3) Cooperation with related institutions

To promote further utilization of satellite data, we also cooperate with related domestic and foreign institutions as well as international organizations and engage in mutual use of data and data application research.

■ About Satellite Applications and Operations Center

The Satellite Applications and Operations Center (SAOC) was founded in May 2006 to promote the utilization of data obtained by Earth observation satellites, and develops, operates, and maintains ground systems.
Main activities of SAOC are as below.

(1) Promoting the utilization of satellite data

Support for actions to solve issues using satellite data in government and private sectors
Building and operating disaster prevention system, emergency response to large scale disasters in Japan and abroad
Cooperation with Asian countries and international coordination
Activity to promote the utilization of satellite data in various fields and User support

(2) Development, operation and maintenance of ground systems for satellites

Development, operation and maintenance of ground systems for Earth observation satellite control, data processing, data storage, and data provision
Related coordination, research and rollout of new technology/industry trend

■ About Earth Observation Center

The Earth Observation Center (EOC) conducts image processing, inspection and analysis. The processing data is provided to local governments, research institutes and universities and utilized in various fields, such as resolution of environmental issues, disaster monitoring and resource exploration. Also, in order to utilize satellite data effectively, a project to collect related data internationally and provide it as data sets is going on under the global cooperation.

■ About Regional Satellite Applications Center for Disaster Management

The Regional Satellite Applications Center for Disaster Management (RSCD) cooperates with Yamaguchi Pref. and Yamaguchi University and promote the utilization of satellite data for local disaster management, the development of analysis technology for disaster, the development of human resources to analyze satellite data, and so on. The result of these factual efforts is reported to other local government through Kyushu-Chugoku-Sikoku University regional disaster management liaison meeting and overseas through Sentinel Asia and the International Disasters Charter. Also, RSCD supports creation of new business using satellite data led by Yamaguchi Pref. and Yamaguchi University and the space education activity to develop educational leaders.


JAXA is also promoting research development based on generous donations. We welcome your kind support for further development of Earth observation research and the utilization of satellite data.

Donation to application research of satellite data etc. (Japanese only)

JAXA donations (Japanese only)

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