Tokyo 2020 satellite to orbit earth during the Games

Tokyo 2020 plans to manufacture small satellite and deploy it in orbit around the earth

The Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (Tokyo 2020) has inaugurated their special “G-SATELLITE Go to Space” project, which plans to manufacture a small satellite and deploy it in orbit around the earth.

Aimed at both promoting and enlivening the Tokyo 2020 Games from space, the satellite’s payload will include “Mobile Suite GUNDAM” and “Char’s ZAKU”, two of Japan’s most popular animated characters.

This initiative is part of the Tokyo 2020 One Team Project, launched in August 2017, in which Japan’s leading creators, innovators and performers in a wide range of fields are being invited to express their own interpretations of the vision for the Tokyo 2020 Games, Tokyo 2020 has stated in a write-up on its official website.

The project is the result of collaboration between Tokyo 2020 and the University of Tokyo, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and three companies in Fukui prefecture. This will be the first time in Olympic and Paralympic history that a satellite commissioned specially for the Games will orbit the earth independently.

The Tokyo 2020 “G-SATELLITE”, the design of which is based on the 3-kg “CubeSat” satellite known as TRICOM-1R, will be transported to the International Space Station by rocket and launched from there. It will contain a cubicle housing the two animated figures GUNDAM and ZAKU and an electric bulletin board, which will appear once the satellite is in orbit. Seven cameras in the satellite will record and transmit their movements.

Measuring just 10cm x 10cm x 30cm, the G-SATELLITE will orbit the earth for the duration of the Games, broadcasting images of the planet, displaying messages on its electric bulletin board and filming the animated figures.

Shinichi Nakasuka, a professor at Intelligent Space Systems Laboratory, University of Tokyo, commented, “When I heard about this project, I wondered whether they would really go through with it. We’ve put satellites into orbit before, but then I thought we might be able to do something in space to help cheer on the Olympic and Paralympic Games. I’m feeling a bit of pressure as the creator of the satellite for this project, but I will turn that pressure into enjoyment and do my best.”

The GUNDAM and ZAKU figures need to be resized in order to fit in the tiny satellite; they will be produced using special materials and paints that can withstand the harsh environment of space. They will be put through various tests prior to launch, including vibration and impact assessments and tests reproducing the effects of a vacuum. Their eyes will be able to reflect each of the five Olympic colours. Further details of the animated figures and of the G-SATELLITE will be announced in December 2019.

Tokyo 2020 Sports Director Koji Murofushi added, “The Olympics and Paralympics are a festival that will bring athletes from all over the world to Tokyo and to Japan to compete with one another. With the addition of space as a new dimension for Tokyo 2020, I hope that the Games will become an even bigger event. I am really looking forward to GUNDAM and ZAKU cheering on the athletes and the Tokyo 2020 Games from space.”

Following its manufacture, the “G-SATELLITE” will be delivered to JAXA this autumn and carried to the International Space Station aboard a supply ship in March 2020. The “G-SATELLITE” will be released from the ISS between March and April 2020; the precise date will depend on the orbiter’s other programmes.