The history of ISAS began in 1955 with the Pencil rocket launch experiment by the University of Tokyo. Three years later, the university developed a rocket capable of reaching an altitude of 60 km and joined the international earth observation program (International Geophysical Year: IGY) by observing wind and temperature in the upper atmosphere.

In 1964, the Institute of Space and Aeronautical Science (ISAS) was founded in the University of Tokyo. In 1970, Japan's first artificial satellite OHSUMI was launched and put into orbit by an L-4S rocket using solid propellant. Since then, ISAS has cultivated its unique nature wherein its missions are achieved based on concurrent, synergistic efforts of two groups of people: space science staff who research the mysteries of space, and engineering R&D staff working to meet with the needs of space science. This partnership is a characteristic of ISAS.

ISAS is devoted to space science, to the collaboration of scientists and engineers to research and develop solid-propellant rockets and scientific satellites to meet the needs of space science researchers. In 1981, the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS) was reborn as a joint research organization among Japanese universities. Since the launch of OHSUMI in 1970, ISAS in its various incarnations has launched 27 scientific satellites and solar system explorers. ISAS is now one of the leading centers of excellence in the world of space science.

In the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (founded in 2003 by the merger of ISAS, NASDA and NAL), space science is defined as one of the pillars of its activities. We expect to continue performing vigorous research and making further contributions to scientific progress in the world, by combining the powers of researchers at universities across the country.

Timeline of ISAS

Year Event
April 1955 The Institute of Industrial Science, University of Tokyo, horizontally launched Pencil rocket in Kokubunji, Tokyo.
August 1955 The Akita Rocket Range was established at Michikawa Beach, Akita Pref. (where Pencil and Baby rockets were launched).
1957-1958 International Geophysical Year (IGY)
June 1958 K-6, the two-stage Kappa rocket, reached an altitude of 60km.
July 1960 K-8-1, reached an altitude of 190km. World's first measurement of ion density.
December 1961 K-9L-2, measurement of electron density and temperature over an altitude of 300km.
February 1962 Kagoshima Space Center established.
May 1962 Failure of launch K-8-10, last launch at Akita Rocket Range. (A total of 88 rockets were launched.)
October 1962 Noshiro Testing Center established.
November 1962 Launch of K-9M-1. (A total of 81 rockets were launched from 1962 to 1988.)
April 1963 Development of M (Mu) rockets started.
April 1964 The Institute of Space and Aeronautical Science was founded in the University of Tokyo.
July 1964 L-3-1 of the Lambda rocket series was launched and reached an altitude of 1,000km.
July 1964 Launch of Japan's first weather observation rocket MT-135-1. (A total of 73 rockets were launched from 1964 to 2000.)
June 1965 Scientific satellite plan presented at the Scientific Satellite Symposium.
November 1965 Launch of sounding rocket K-10-1. (A total of 14 rockets were launched from 1965 to 1980.)
March 1966 Launch of sounding rocket L-3H-1. (A total of nine rockets were launched from 1966 to 1977.)
July 1966 Scientific balloon experiments started at the temporary testing site in Taiyomura, Ibaraki Pref.
September 1966 L-4S-1 was launched.
* Satellite was not put into orbit due to the abnormal flight of the 3rd stage caused by the improper separation of the 2nd and 3rd stages.
December 1966 L-4S-2 was launched.
* Satellite was not put into orbit due to ignition failure of the final stage.
February 1967 L-3H-3 was launched, reaching an altitude of 2,150km.
April 1967 L-4S-3 was launched.
* Satellite was not put into orbit due to ignition failure of the 3rd stage.
July 1968 Scientific balloon experiment site moved to Haranomachi, Fukushima Pref.
September 1968 Launch of sounding rocket S-160-1. (A total of four rockets were launched from 1968 to 1972.)
January 1969 Launch of sounding rocket S-300-1. (A total of three rockets were launched in 1969.)
August 1969 Launch of sounding rocket S-210-1. (A total of 13 rockets were launched from 1969 to 1982.)
September 1969 L-4S-4 was launched.
* Satellite was not put into orbit because the 3rd stage collided with the upper stage.
February 1970 L-4S-5 was launched, successfully putting Japan's first artificial satellite OHSUMI into orbit. (Japan became the 4th nation to succeed in satellite launch, following USSR, USA and France.)
February 1970 Sounding rocket developed by the University of Tokyo started observation at the Showa Station in Antarctica.
September 1970 M-4S-1 was launched.
* Satellite was not put into orbit due to sequence malfunction after 4th stage ignition.
November 1970 Sanriku Balloon Center established.
February 1971 M-4S-2 was launched, carrying TANSEI (MS-T1) satellite.
July 1971 Meteorological rocket developed by the University of Tokyo started observation at the Meteorological Rocket Observation Station (Ryori, Iwate Pref.) of the Japan Meteorological Agency.
September 1971 M-4S-3 was launched, carrying SHINSEI (MS-F2), the first Japanese scientific satellite.
August 1972 M-4S-4 was launched, carrying DENPA (REX). It aimed to observe plasma wave, plasma density, etc., in space.
1974-1978 Measurement of Crab Nebula's hard X-ray by scientific balloon.
February 1974 M-3C-1 was launched, carrying TANSEI-2 (MS-T2).
January 1975 Launch of sounding rocket S-310-1.
February 1975 M-3C-2 was launched, carrying TAIYO (SRATS). It aimed to observe soft X-ray and ultraviolet radiation from the sun, etc.
October 1975 The Science Council, the Ministry of Education, submitted a report on "Promotion of Space Science."
February 1976 M-3C-3 was launched, carrying CORSA satellite.
* The satellite was not put into orbit due to control system failure.
February 1977 SEPAC scientific experiment project using the Space Shuttle and Spacelab-1 started.
February 1977 M-3H-1 was launched, carrying TANSEI-3 (MS-T3).
July 1977 Static firing test of liquid hydrogen/liquid oxygen engine started at Noshiro Testing Center.
February 1978 M-3H-2 was launched, carrying KYOKKO (EXOS-A).
September 1978 M-3H-3 was launched JIKIKEN (EXOS-B).
February 1979 M-3C-4 was launched, carrying X-ray astronomy satellite HAKUCHO (CORSA-b).
April 1979 Space Science and Technological Information Analysis Center established.
January 1980 Launch of sounding rocket S-520-1.
February 1980 M-3S-1 was launched, carrying TANSEI-4 (MS-T4).
April 1980 Research and preparatory committee formed in the University of Tokyo to create a "central laboratory for space science."
February 1981 M-3S-2 was launched, carrying HINOTORI (ASTRO-A).
April 1981 The Institute of Space and Astronautical Science founded.
February 1983 M-3S-3 was launched, carrying TENMA (ASTRO-B), X-ray astronomy satellite.
November 1983 SEPAC experiment conducted.
February 1984 M-3S-4 succeeded in launching OHZORA (EXOS-C).
October 1984 Usuda Deep Space Center established.
January 1985 M-3SII-1 succeeded in launching Japan's first interplanetary explorer SAKIGAKE(MS-T5).
August 1985 M-3SII-2 succeeded in launching SUISEI (PLANET-A) to study Halley's Comet.
February 1987 M-3SII-3 succeeded in launching X-ray astronomy satellite GINGA (ASTRO-C).
May 1987 Space Utilization Research Center founded.
February 1989 Aurora observation satellite AKEBONO (EXOS-D) launched with M-3SII-4.
April 1989 The Institute of Space and Astronautical Science moved from Tokyo to Sagamihara city, Kanagawa Pref.
January 1990 M-3SII-5 launched engineering testing satellite HITEN (MUSES-A).
August 1991 M-3SII-6 launched solar observation satellite YOHKOH (SOLAR-A).
July 1992 Launch of GEOTAIL, a satellite to observe the magnetospheric tail.
February 1993 M-3SII-7 launched X-ray astronomy satellite ASCA (ASTRO-D).
April 1993 The Center for Planning and Information Systems established (converted from Space Science and Technological Information Analysis Center).
January 1995 M-3SII-8 launched EXPRESS satellite.
* Because of 2nd stage failure, the satellite could not reach its planned orbit and fell to the earth in its third rotation. It was found in Africa 10 months later and provided helpful data for reentry test.
March 1995 Launch of Space Flyer Unit (SFU) and Geostationary Meteorological Satellite-5 Himawari-5 by H-II launch vehicle No.3.
April 1995 Center for Advanced Spacecraft Technology established.
January 1996 The SFU was retrieved by the Space Shuttle Endeavour (STS-72).
February 1997 Radio Astronomy Satellite HALCA (MUSES-B) was launched by M-V-1.
January 1998 Launch of sounding rocket SS-520-1.
July 1998 Mars Orbiter NOZOMI (PLANET-B) was launched by M-V-3.
May 1999 Super Pressure Balloon experiment.
February 2000 X-ray astronomy satellite (ASTRO-E) was launched by M-V-4.
* The launcher could not put the satellite into orbit because of the lack of final velocity due to 1st stage nozzle failure.
January 2001 Placed under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology following a reorganization of government ministries.
February 2002 DASH (Demonstrator of Atmospheric Reentry System with Hyper Velocity) was launched by H-IIA launch vehicle No. 2.
* DASH could not reach its planned orbit because of failure of separation from the payload mount.
May 2002 Ultra-thin film high altitude balloon marked the world's highest record of an altitude of 53km.

May 2003

Asteroid sample-return spacecraft HAYABUSA (MUSES-C) was launched by M-V-5.
October 2003 Establishment of an Independent Administrative Agency, the "Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)", merging three aerospace organizations, the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science, the National Aerospace Laboratory of Japan, and the National Space Development Agency of Japan.
December 2003 Mars orbiter NOZOMI gave up its injection into orbit around Mars.
* NOZOMI could not reach its planned orbit because of control engine trouble.
July 2005 X-ray astronomy satellite SUZAKU (ASTRO-EII) was launched by M-V-6.
August 2005 Launch of the Optical Inter-orbit Communications Engineering Test Satellite Kirari (OICETS) and Innovative Technology Demonstration Experiment small sattelite REIMEI (INDEX) by the Russian launch vehicle Dnepr.
September 2005 Successful arrival and observation on the asteroid Itokawa by the asteroid explorer HAYABUSA. (MUSES-C)
February 2006 Infrared astronomy satellite AKARI (ASTRO-F) was launched by M-V-8.
September 2006 Solar physics satellite HINODE (SOLAR-B) was launched by M-V-7.
September 2007 Lunar explorer KAGUYA (SELENE) was launched by H-IIA-13.
May 2010 Venus Climate Orbiter AKATSUKI (PLANET-C) was launched by H-IIA-17.
June 2010 Asteroid explorer HAYABUSA came back to the Earth , capsule recovered.
September 2013 Extreme ultraviolet spectroscope for Exospheric Dynamics HISAKI (SPRINT-A) was launched by Epsilon.
May 2014 Asteroid Explorer Hayabusa2 was launched by H-IIA-26.
April 2015 As JAXA’s status was changed from an independent administrative agency to a “National Research and Development Agency,” its organization was restructured.
April 2015 Aurora Observation AKEBONO (EXOS-D) operation completed.(Operation period: 26 years and two months)
December 2015 Venus Climate Orbiter AKATSUKI (PLANET-C) inserted into Venus' orbit.
February 2016 X-ray Astronomy Satellite "Hitomi" (ASTRO-H) was launched by H-IIA Launch Vehicle No. 30.
December 2016 The Exploration of energization and Radiation in Geospace "ARASE" (ERG) was launched by the second Epsilon Launch Vehicle (Epsilon-2).
February 2018 SS-520-5 launch experiment with a microsatellite TRICOM-1R aboard.
June 2018 Asteroid explorer "Hayabusa2" rendezvous with the asteroid Ryugu.
October 2018 Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter "MIO" (MMO) / BepiColombo was launched by Ariane 5 rocket.
February 2019 Successful touchdown on the asteroid Ryugu by the asteroid explorer "Hayabusa2".
July 2019 Successful 2nd touchdown on the asteroid Ryugu by the asteroid explorer "Hayabusa2".
October 2020 In parallel with the Venus flyby by BepiColombo/MIO, joint observations of Venus were performed with "Akatsuki" as well as "HISAKI".
December 2020 Asteroid explorer "Hayabusa2" re-entry capsule came back to the Earth , capsule recovered.
September 2023 X-ray Imaging and Spectroscopy Mission (XRISM) and the Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) were launched by H-IIA Launch Vehicle No. 47.