ANA Holdings & JAXA partner to create a new space-based avatar industry

Image courtesy of ANA Holdings

ANA Holdings and Japan’s space agency, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) have announced the launch of “AVATAR X,” a multi-phased program to revolutionize space exploration and development using real-world Avatars. These Avatars will enable humans to control space-based operations remotely from Earth in near real-time, using technologies such as Virtual Reality (VR).

AVATAR X is part of “ANA’s AVATAR Vision” and JAXA’s new research and development program “J-SPARC” (JAXA Space Innovation through Partnership and Co-creation). Together with a growing list of public and private partners, AVATAR X hopes to catalyze new space-based businesses that will provide key services and an unprecedented level of access to space.

These partners include GITAI, a startup developing its own avatar and SpaceVR, a startup hoping to send the first VR satellite into space. Along with such startups is XPRize, as well as larger enterprises like Soft Bank, and construction companies Takenaka Corporation and Obayashi Corporation.

Some of the new business fields that AVATAR X aims to unlock include remote construction in space, the Moon and Mars, space-based entertainment and travel, and remote operation and maintenance of space stations.

The first phase of AVATAR X will begin this year, where the consortium of partners will construct a roadmap for the program.

The second phase consists of building the “AVATAR X Lab@OITA” in Japan’s southern prefecture of Oita. This facility will be the world’s first dedicated Avatar space test field. Key telecommunication and research infrastructure will be installed at the facility to enable testing for Avatars in space scenarios defined by the AVATAR X consortium. Unique structures, designed by award-winning architecture firm CLOUDS Architecture Office (CLOUDS AO), will also be built at the AVATAR X Lab@OITA to house research facilities, conference and exhibition rooms as well as restaurants and other amenities for researchers and visitors.

Planned for the early 2020’s, the third phase of AVATAR X will transport technologies developed at the AVATAR X Lab@OITA to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) for testing in space. Once the capabilities of these new technologies are confirmed in the space environment, the fourth phase will begin. Phase four involves deploying AVATAR X technology to begin building and further exploring the Moon, Mars and beyond.

“ANA is driven by a bold and inspiring vision of the future of flight and this boldness doesn’t stop on our planet,” said Shinya Katanozaka, President and CEO of ANA HD. “Through innovative partnerships, like AVATAR X, we are excited about the possibilities of what we can accomplish and where we can go when the private and public sectors join forces.”

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