Japan Blog Study Tour

Eternal concrete and rockets

TsukubaToday we are leaving Tokyo for a while to head out to Tsukuba. Tsukuba is a good 2 hours from Jimbocho and so our day started early with me giving a briefing to the group about JAXA. The latter was because all of us reviewed a company to write a report about and mine was about JAXA. So after we left the hotel with provisions to survive the coming night, we set out for Tsukuba.

When we got out at Tsukuba Center, we started walking to Kajima, a company that is active in the construction industry and normally works on large projects (they have their own TBM, to give you an idea). As we weren’t allowed to make pictures, I unfortunately have none but it was pretty interesting to see what they do (even though I couldn’t spot large industrial secrets that should not have been photographed – but still).

For starters they are working on technology to make buildings earth-quake proof, a good idea in Japan. They have stabilizers to put under the foundation of buildings, which are in fact big rubber blocks that dampen the movement of the building during an earth-quake. Another way of securing a building is by adding an exterior structure which helps to prevent damage to the building during shaking. Both methods can be used in new buildings or as retro-fit. To test new inventions they have a huge shaking table. This is a platform which can shake 30 tons of material using insane force. To safe the surrounding buildings from the rumbling of the platform, a huge dampening zone is around the system. This whole contraption is in a separate building from other parts of Kajima and probably for good reason.

Kajima also developed concrete they claim will last for 10,000 years. It is based on some ancient Chinese concrete they found near the great wall of China and which was dated over 5,000 years old. If they don’t mind, I won’t stand around and wait to test their claim.

In the same building they also are testing new soil to cover buildings with thin layers of it as feeding bed for grass. This will provide a nice garden to sit on in the summer as well as provide natural insulation on roofs. They came up with a simple way of getting water for the grass: the installation on top of the Kajima building stores rain and condensation water from the air-conditioning (which every building in Tokyo has).

Welcome to JAXA After Kajima we went to JAXA by bus. When we arrived at JAXA we were suddenly asked if everyone had a passport on them. I have mine with me al the time but some people did not. Actually, they should have announced this in advance if they require something like that from their visitors. But after a few minutes they simply started handing out visitors badges to everyone and we could proceed.

JAXA rocket engine We started out at the museum where they display models of satellites they made. Or actually prototypes I should say: if I understand it correctly, they first build a prototype of a satellite to test where the wiring should go and how to make it all fit. Then they build the final structure and they only put the electronics from the prototype in the final model. All of the solar panels and foil is left on the prototype. Looking at the cost of solar panels and the size of them I’d say they have a small fortune worth of models in that museum. Even worse, most of the stuff is taped together (like parts of the rocket engine) or with Velcro stuck together, making the looks and feel of a cheap imitation. You can image the surprise when we found out that all of them are real.

After the museum tour we got a presentation about JAXA’s latest internet satellite called Kizuna or WINDS. Kizuna means ‘hope’ in Japanese and its part of the mission set by the Japanese government to provide Japanese people with access to internet from everywhere. Kizuna has 2 normal antennae arrays (not so exciting) but it also has a phased antennae array and internal routing. ISS module for Japan Both are a first for a satellite and are quite handy. The phased array antennae means that without aiming, you can focus electronically on a spot to set up communications rather than aiming a normal antennae mechanically. This also means that the focus of the antennae can shift multiple times in a second and that multiple connections at the same time are possible. Kizuna has a maximum throughput of 1.2Gpbs which is not much when you think it should be able to service multiple users. However, this is a testing satellite and if you are satisfied with the few hundred kbps you get on a mobile device you can service a lot of users. On of the cool things was the fact that the presentation was given by the Kizuna project manager himself (he also gave the museum tour but we didn’t know who he was at that time – d0h).

After JAXA we walked to the Tsukuba Daily Inn to check in. After that we got money for food and everyone split up. Because we found some good restaurants in the center of Tsukuba we hopped on a bus back down town. After a decent meal at an Italian restaurant (where luckily one female staff member spoke a little English) we got us desert at the Star Bucks and finally got back by taking a taxi.

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