ETS-VIII (Engineering Test Satellite-VIII)
|Mission status||Mission complete|
|Launch date||18 December 2006|
|End of life date||18 December 2016|
ETS-VIII (Engineering Test Satellite-VIII) / Kiku-8
ETS-VIII is an advanced JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) technology demonstration satellite with the aim to develop and verify the world's largest geostationary satellite-bus technology, considered to be necessary for space missions at the beginning of the 21st century. In Japan, the mission is also referred to as Kiku-8. The mission objectives are to conduct orbital experiments on the following structures/systems: (the first three are required to realize mobile satellite communications with hand-held terminals, similar to popular cellular phones). 1) 2)
• LDR (Large-scale Deployable Reflector) developed by JAXA. A modular structure is employed to meet the requirements of reflector surface preciseness (2.4 mm rms surface precision) and antenna diameter expendability. Each LDR consists of 14 hexagon-shaped modules. Once deployed, each reflector forms a parabola surface with expanding metal mesh (19 m x 17 m in outside dimension). Each module has a deployable truss structure. ETS-VIII is equipped with two LDR modules, one of data transmission and the other for reception. During launch the LDR system is packed in a cylindrical container of size 1 m diameter by 4 m in length.
• HPT (High-Power Transponder), developed by the former ASC (Advanced Space Communications Research Laboratory). Since 2004, the new name is NICT (National Institute of Information and Communications Technology), Tokyo.
• OBP (On-Board Processor), provided by NICT.
• Moreover, the ETS-VIII spacecraft a high precise clock system for the satellite positioning experiments was developed by JAXA and NICT.3)
The satellite features a 3-ton class bus comprising the satellite body, the EPS (Electric Power Subsystem), C&DH (Command and Data Handling) subsystem, a thermal control subsystem, AOCS (Attitude Orbit Control Subsystem), and a propulsion module. The S/C shape is a rectangular box with deployable solar paddles. The spacecraft was manufactured and integrated at MELCO (Mitsubishi Electric Corporation) Kamakura Works, Kamakura-City, Japan using the DS2000 platform. 4) 5) 6)
The spacecraft design employs a number of features such as:
• A light structure to improve the payload to bus system ratio to 40% from the conventional 30%
• The bus system consists of several modules to reduce development time through concurrent work to integration
• The bus power supply voltage was changed from the conventional 50 V to 100 V for greater electrical power
• The MIL-STD-1553B data bus standard is used for commonality. In addition, the CCSDS packet protocol suite was chosen for all data communication with the ground segment
• The thermal subsystem uses heat pipes to connect the north and south panels of the satellite thereby expanding the effective radiation surface
• Use of an attitude control system with fault-tolerant functions and in-orbit reprogramming capability.
ETS-VIII is three-axis stabilized, the accuracy of the AOCS is: roll/pitch axis = ±0.05º max., yaw axis = ±0.15º max. The AOCS employs an Earth sensor assembly, a sun sensor and an integrated rate gyro assembly for attitude sensing. Actuation is provided by four reaction wheels, each of 50 Nms, in a skewed arrangement. In addition, 13 accelerometers are installed to monitor the dynamic behavior of the deployed structure. The MIL-STD-1553B data bus is being used for all onboard data handling. The OBC design supports autonomous FDIR (Fault Detection, Isolation and Reconfiguration) functions.
The S/C mass is 2900 kg at the beginning of mission life with a payload mass is 1100 kg. The EPS (Electric Power Subsystem) provides 7.5 kW with a regulated 100 V of bus voltage. The NiH2 batteries provide a capacity of 100 Ah for eclipse operations. The S/C bus has a design life of 10 years, the mission design life is three years. The spacecraft has been built at Mitsubishi Electric of Tokyo as prime contractor to JAXA.
The overall length of the spacecraft is 40 m measured along the axis of the solar panels, and 40 m measured along the axis of the two LDRs (when deployed). Two propulsion systems are used: a) an apogee (bi-propellant) engine in the 500 N class with 22 N thrusters (used for attitude control and E-W station-keeping), and b) a Xenon ion engine providing a thrust of 25 mN, two ion engines are used for N-S station-keeping. 7) 8) 9) 10) 11) 12) 13)
IES (Ion Engine System): JAXA and MELCO developed a 20 mN class xenon ion engine system for the spacecraft. IES can operate for more than 16,000 hours at an average thrust of over 20 mN and an average specific impulse of over 2,200 s. IES was used for north-south station-keeping of Kiku-8.
Spacecraft design life
5800 kg at launch, 2900 kg on-orbit at start of mission
7.5 kW (at summer solstice after 3 years) with a regulated 100 V of bus voltage
roll/pitch axis = ±0.05º max, yaw axis = ±0.15º max
The launch of ETS-VIII took place on Dec. 18, 2006. Use of the H-IIA F11 launch vehicle from the Tanegashima Space Center, Japan.
Orbit: Geostationary orbit of ETS-VIII at 146º E longitude (altitude of 35,786 km above the equator).
RF communications: TT&C communications are provided in S-band. All data transmission is done with CCSDS protocols.
OBP (Onboard Processor)
OPS (Onboard Packet Switch)
35 k symbol/s, π/4 QPSK
512 k symbol/s, π/4 QPSK
MC-TDMA (5 channels/carrier)
5.6 kbit/s (voice)
4 - 32 kbit/packet
Number of channels
128 packets/carrier (max)
Satellite EIRP/Carrier and G/T
49 dBW, 13 dB/K
52 dBW, 13 dB/K
Ground terminal EIRP and G/T
9 dBW, -24 dB/K
18 dBW, -21 dB/K
Mobile Link (service link)
Ka-band (20 / 30 GHz)
S-band (2.6 / 2.5 GHz)
0.8 m diameter
13 m diameter
EIRP (Effective Isotropic Radiated Power)
44 dBW @ NPR=20 dB
65 dBW @ NPR=16 dB
G/T [(receiver) Gain/(noise) Temperature]
Beam scanning range
Legend to Figure 6: The physical size of the reflector is 17 x 18 m, and the number of array elements of the Tx/Rx primary feed is 31. The Tx frequency band is 2.5 GHz and Rx frequency band is 2.6 Ghz (S-band).
• On January 10, 2017, JAXA terminated its ETS-VIII (Engineering Test Satellite/ Kiku-8) transmission, thus ending the satellite's operations. Kiku- 8 was built for demonstration and experiment, with the purpose of improvement of mobile communications system. When the Japan earthquake and tsunami of 2011 broke out, the satellite did the much needed service of providing the Internet access for the afflicted region. Launched on December 18, 2006, Kiku- 8 marked its 3-year mission period and on December 18, 2016, completed its 10-year design life. The satellite's fuel ran low that controlled its attitude and orbit after the decade long operation. In addition, an outdated satellite in space can undermine the operation of others. Therefore JAXA made a call to discontinue using the probe. Kiku-8 was thrown out of its stationary orbit and ceased to function. 14)
- Voice and data transmission with handheld or portable terminals
- High-quality audio and video multicasting for mobile terminals
- Positioning with a highly accurate onboard atomic clock.
• The ETS-VIII / Kiku-8 spacecraft is operating nominally in 2014. 17)
• The ETS-VIII / Kiku-8 spacecraft is operating nominally in 2013.
• The ETS-VIII / Kiku-8 spacecraft is operating nominally in 2012 in its 6th year on orbit (the mission design life is 3 years). 18)
• 2011: The project is reporting the following experimental results and anomalies of antenna performance: 19)
1) The actual beam direction is different from the calculated result; the angle has shifted by ~ 0.2º to the east from the calculated result.
2) The radiation patterns do not satisfy the designed value (-20 dB specifications level) of side lobe.
3) A daily variation of the beam direction is observed.
In the analysis, the project team argues that these anomalies are caused by a mounting angle error and the surface distortion of the reflector. With these large antennas, the thermal distortion error can have serious implications, causing beam pointing errors, distortion of the beam shape, and increasing sidelobe levels.
An example of the temperature telemetry of a reflector during an eclipse is shown in Figure 7. During the eclipse, variation in temperature is large and drastic. Here, M5, M10 and M12 denote the temperature sensor numbers at reflector surface.
Figure 8 shows the time variation in beam direction. Here, the solid line shows nominal position of the beam (before eclipse) and the broken line shows the pattern in an eclipse. The times shown in Figure 8 are the times during eclipse.
In conclusion it can be stated that thermal distortion errors of large reflector antennas represent a serious factor in orbit - involving beam direction errors, distortion of the beam shape, and increasing side-lobe levels.
• On March 24, 2011, JAXA began a satellite communication connection using the Engineering Test Satellite VIII "KIKU No. 8" (ETS-VIII) to support disaster measures following the Tohoku Region Pacific Ocean Coastal Earthquake.20)
• ETS-VIII (Kiku-8) spacecraft and its payload are operating nominally in 2010.
• The KIKU-8 satellite is being used to demonstrate the effectiveness of satellite communications for the disaster management support and relief requirements. JAXA joined in disaster prevention training sessions held by local governments and demonstrated emergency communications experiments via KIKU-8 with the portable and handheld terminals.21) 22)
• The IES (Ion Engine System) was operated in orbit for about two and a half years for north-south stationkeeping. The thruster operation time is more than 3,000 hours.
• The LDR antenna system has demonstrated the expected electrical performances in orbit. The communications experiments using the LDR antenna system have achieved steady results (Ref. 26).
• Kiku-8 provided nominal operations starting in May 2007. Many types of experiments and demonstrations are being performed. The in-orbit electrical performance verification for the LDR antenna system was one of these experiments. This radiation pattern verification is continuously being conducted in each season in corporation with NICT, the developers of the feed system of the antenna system. The radiation pattern is calculated from the ground station receiving signal levels from the satellite while the beam is scanned systematically pitching or rolling the satellite. 23) Ref. 26)
• In the IOT (Initial Orbit Test), the radiation pattern for the S-band antenna system including the LDR was measured.
• On-orbit system identification experiments were conducted during the initial check-out phase of the ETS-VIII to estimate its dynamics. 24)
Control modes/ actuators
Calibration of FF-torque for orbit control
Feed-forward torques for station keeping control were calibrated by firing orbit control thrusters
Orbit control thrusters
Data for system indication were obtained during station acquisition
Orbit control mode/
Orbit control thrusters
Thruster functional tests
Eight thrusters for attitude and orbit control were fired for 62.5 ms in sequence
Attitude control and orbit control thrusters
Calibration of FF-torque for wheel unloading
Feed-forward torques for wheel unloading were calibrated by test wheel unloading maneuvers
Attitude control thrusters
Functional test of attitude bias
The vehicle's attitude was biased in roll and pitch with
Attitude bias command
• On Jan. 9, 2007, a maneuver was started to place the spacecraft in its final GEO orbit at 146º E longitude.
• On Dec. 27, 2006, JAXA shifted the attitude attitude control mode of ETS-VIII to the regular control mode. All functions of the satellite have been verified to be normal after the control mode shift.
• Successful deployment of the LDR (Large-scale Deployable Reflector) took place on Dec. 25 and 26, 2006. This was confirmed by telemetry and imagery (the deployment behavior in close-up and distant view was taken by two onboard cameras as shown in Figure 9). 25)
Communications and Experiments
Mobile satellite communications and broadcasting experiments
The objective of ETS-VIII is to conduct orbital experiments on mobile satellite communications and high-speed packet communications, providing voice/data communications with hand-held terminals in the S-band. For these experiments, a 31-element active phased array feeder of 400 W gross output and a beam forming network had been developed to synthesize signals into several beams to cover some parts of the Japan Islands. The onboard processor switches links of cellular phones and high-speed packets, enabling us to establish a single-hop communication link with the ETS-VIII without ground switchboards along the path.
S-band communications and broadcasting experiments are being conducted to demonstrate a mobile satellite communications and broadcasting system technologies with small-scale ground terminals (such as hand-held terminals). These experiments employ the following devices:
LDR (Large-scale Deployable Reflector)
The entire spacecraft structure is dominated by the two large deployable antenna reflector structures, each of size 19.2 m x 16.7 m with a 13 m aperture. Each mesh deployment antenna consists of 14 modules. Each module in turn consists of a gold-plated Molybdenum mesh surface, a spatially determined cable network, and a deployable truss as supporting structure. The entire antenna system fits in a stow-volume of 1 m diameter x 4 m in height. 26)
Each LDR module is a hexagonal truncated pyramid, whose dimension is optimized by considering some design requirement such as weight, natural frequencies, a stowed size, and rigidity. Modular structures are easy to handling, testing and adjusting. The basic concept of the modular mesh deployable antenna was proposed by NTT (Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp.).
The phased array feeder systems are combined with the LDRs to create multiple steerable MSS (Mobile Satellite communication Systems) and to support mobile BSS (Broadcasting Satellite System) experiments (3). The transmission side feeder consists of 31 solid state power amplifiers (300 W in gross output), and the receiving side feeder of 31 low noise amplifiers. The on-board beam-forming network controls the amplitude and phase of the signals to/from the feeder elements to create multiple steerable beams and to form the desired beam patterns.
Onboard signal switching
Two sets of onboard baseband switching equipment are installed to realize onboard signal routing. One is an on-board processor (OBP), which is designed to perform voice channel switching among mobile users or between mobile users and ground network users and has 500 channel capacity. The other is an onboard packet switch (OPS) for high-speed packet data communications.
Aperture size, F/D
13 m, 0.8
Offset angle, surface error
52.5º, less than 2.4 mm rms (S-band: λ/50)
Beam pointing error
Less than 0.83º (static)/0.0045º (dynamic)
< 400 kg (2 reflectors, include supporting booms, adjustment mechanisms and deployment drive electronics)
> 0.1 Hz (in orbit)
Satellite positioning experiments
Positioning experiments (in S- and L-band) are conducted to study basic satellite positioning system characteristics and to demonstrate the feasibility of new satellite positioning system concepts (consisting of MEO and GEO constellation elements). A high-accuracy time signal, which is similar to the GPS data, created by an atomic cesium frequency standard on the satellite is transmitted. Furthermore, the TCE (Time Comparing Equipment) is used to conduct precise time comparison between the onboard atomic clock and the ground reference clocks. High-accuracy orbit determination is supported by SLR (Satellite Laser Ranging) stations.
L-band (1598.88±7.5 MHz), S-band (2491.005±7.5 MHz)
Spread spectrum signal with navigation message (50 bit/s)
1.023 Mchirp/s, 1.705 Mchirp/s, 3.41 Mchirp/s, 5.115 Mchirp/s
< 100 m, orbit determination
In the experiment, time signals from two sources, namely the GPS constellation and from the on-board atomic clock are used to determine the position of the satellite. The intend is to reduce the number of spacecraft in the constellation of a future navigation system (if sufficient accuracy can be achieved by this method of orbit determination).
LRRA (Laser Retroreflector Array)
The objective is to support SLR activities for precise orbit determination. The LRRA consists of 36 corner-cubes which are 4.1 cm in diameter, respectively. The array structure is aluminum alloy and the corner cubes are constrained to allow for the differential thermal expansion of the structure and the quartz corner cubes. The array assembly has a mass of less than 3.1 kg. The array is 26 cm length, 30 cm width and 5.5 cm in height. 27) 28)
The 36 individually serialized corner cubes are high homogeneity Suprasil-1(quartz). The individual corner cubes are 4.1 cm diameter and optimized for the velocity aberration of the satellite as well as for a wavelength of 5320 Ä. The surface flatness is 1/10 wavelength at 5320 Ä. The reflectivity is specified to exceed 75% at 5320 Ä. The net optical efficiency of the prism is specified to exceed 95% at 5320 Ä. Here, the net optical efficiency is defined as the probability of receiving one or more reflected photoelectrons at a ground station per one pulse of laser emitted from the ground station.
optimized for 532 nm
FOV (half angle)
Optical cross section
1.63 x 108 m2
Size of array
26 cm x 30 cm x 5.5 cm
Mass of LRRA
< 3.1 kg
36 corner cubes
LRRA is installed on the top of ETS-VIII's antenna-tower (Figure 14). The attitude of ETS-VIII affects the position and the direction of LRRA. The performance of ETS-VIII attitude orbit control subsystem is as follows:
Attitude control error (3σ): Roll (< ±0.05º), Pitch (< ±0.05º), Yaw (< ±0.15º).
ETS-VIII LRRA is developed based on the performance of SLR stations Koganei (NICT) and Moblas-5 (NASA).
To make a maximum use of the LDR and to verify the ETS-VIII mobile satellite communication system, JAXA has developed two types of small ground terminals for communications experiments. One is a portable terminal shown in Figure 15 and the other is a handheld terminal shown in Figure 16.
The portable terminal is a briefcase size and is able to communicate with other portable terminal directly via the satellite. Since the portable terminal uses the TCP/IP interface, data from a PC can be transmitted directly with data rates ranging from 64 kbit/s to 1.5 Mbit/s.
The handheld terminal consists of a general purpose PDA terminal called "Ubiquitous Communicator" and a satellite communication card. The satellite communication card uses satellite communication antennas and a GPS antenna. The signals from/to the satellite are being processed in this card. The satellite communication card is simply inserted into the PDA and interfaced with the USB interface. The data rates are 50 to 400 bit/s for transmission and 1.6 to 12.8 kbit/s for reception.
LDREX-2 (Large Deployable Reflector Small-sized Partial Model 2)
JAXA tested the LDR deployment sequence by flying the LDREX-2, a small-size model of LDR as a secondary payload on the Ariane 5ECA launcher from Kourou on Oct. 13, 2006 (UTC). The primary payloads on this flight were DirecTV-9S, a US communications satellite, and Optus D1, an Australian communications satellite.
LDREX-2, designed by JAXA and build by NEC Toshiba Space Systems Ltd., is a deployable antenna reflector experiment on scale 1/2 representative of the large LDR antenna of the future technology satellite ETS-VIII. 29)
LDREX-2 was mounted onto the ASAP (Ariane Structure for Auxiliary Payloads) platform on Ariane-5. The payload had a mass of 211 kg, and a folded size of 0.7 m x 0.6 m x 1.9 m (deployed span in orbit of 6.5 m).
The two spacecraft on this flight were ejected successfully into GTO (Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit). LDREX-2, at the bottom of the payload stack, remained attached to the ESC-A upper stage.
On Oct. 16, 2006, JAXA confirmed the antenna deployment by images acquired at the Malindi Station in the Republic of Kenya. The images were recorded by cameras mounted on the launch vehicle.
Aeronautical Earth station
The aeronautical Earth station is composed of an APAA (Active Phased Array Antenna), modulator/demodulator (modem), up-converter (U/C), and down-converter (D/C). The APAA has 18 microstrip antenna elements and can be installed on a vehicle very easily. The main specifications of the APAA and modem are shown in Table 9. The total output power of the APAA is about 25 W. The beamwidth of the main lobe for the APAA antenna pattern is about 30º. The APAA was installed on the top of a Gulfstream II aircraft and was covered with a radome, which was used for the Ka-band aeronautical satellite communications experiment. The modem has a changeable transmission rate from 5 kbit/s to 3 Mbit/s. Its modulation techniques are the BPSK (Binary Phase Shift Keying), QPSK (Quadrature Phase Shift Keying) and offset QPSK. 30)
Tx: 2655.5 - 2658.0 MHz, Rx: 2500.5 - 2503.0 MHz
Tx: 12.3 dBi, Rx: 14.5 dBi
Number of elements
Endless phase shifter
26.3 dBW, -12.3 dBK
440 mm (diameter) x 117 mm (height)
Mass, power consumption
19.7 kg, 354 W
Closed loop, Open loop
BPSK, QPSK, offset QPSK
5 kbit/s - 3 Mbit/s
Convolutional code, Reed-Solomon code, Turbo code
Aeronautical Mobile Satellite Communications Experiment:
The base station is located at the Kashima Space Technology Center, Ibaraki, Japan. It has a parabolic antenna with a diameter of 3.8 m for the S-band frequency. The diagram of the experimental system is shown in Figure 20. Table 9 shows an example of the link budget for the aeronautical mobile satellite communications experiment. The quality of the downlink is superior to that of the uplink in the case of the return-link. The total C/No of the return-link is about 56 dBHz, which is almost the same as that of the uplink C/No.
Uplink (2.6 GHz)
Downlink (2.5 GHz)
Aeronautical Earth station
HPA output power
HPA output power
Kashima S-band earth station
Rx antenna gain
Rx antenna gain
Rx power (at LNA in)
Rx power (at LNA in)
System noise temperature
System noise temperature
Satellite tracking performance in flight: The APAA has a satellite tracking function that uses the open-loop method or the closed-loop method. In the open-loop method, the APAA receives position signals from the global positioning system receiver and attitude signals from the aircraft, and it calculates the satellite direction using those data. On the other hand, the closed-loop method uses the step-track system. The APAA has a satellite tracking performance of over 30º/s.
Figure 21 shows the receiving level during one rotation in the case of the 20 degree turning flight. The APAA has theoretically an omnidirectional antenna pattern for the azimuth direction, and the receiving level in the case of the turning flight has a sinusoidal wave curve during one rotation; however, the APAA actually has different antenna gains for the azimuth direction. Therefore, the receiving level curves, which are shown in Figure 21, are a little different from the sinusoidal wave curves. Figure 21 (left and right) show the signal level in the case of the open-loop and closed-loop satellite tracking, respectively. In the closed-loop, the beam direction of the APAA always changes because of the step-track system. Therefore, the variation of the signal level in the case of the closed-loop is larger than that in the case of the open-loop.
Data transmission performance: The transmission rate of 10 kbit/s, which was a low bit rate, was selected for the experiment because the expected maximum C/No was only about 56 dBHz. The QPSK was used as the modulation technique, the length of the packet signal was 100 Byte, and the throughput of the packet signals for the C/No was measured. The results of the packet data transmission test are shown in Figure 22. The circles and triangles indicate the data in the case of static conditions and level flight, respectively. The measuring period shown by one circle in static conditions is several minutes; on the other hand, the measuring period shown by one triangle in level flight is 10 seconds. Although the data in level flight have some differences because the measuring period was short, the throughput performance of the packet signals in the case of level flight was almost the same as that in the case of static conditions. The crosses show the data in the case of the 20º turning flight. The measuring period shown by one cross in the turning flight is also 10 seconds. The results show the throughput performance of the packet signals in the case of the 20º turning flight was about 2 dB less than that in the case of static conditions.
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22) Motofumi Usui, Hiroki Kohata, Toru Hamaki, Yasuhiko Yamasa, "Antenna Pattern Measurement of the Large Deployable Reflector of the ETS-VIII," Proceedings of the 27th ISTS (International Symposium on Space Technology and Science) , Tsukuba, Japan, July 5-12, 2009,
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28) Takashi Uchimura, Mikio Sawabe, Akinobu Suzuki, Hiroyuki Noda, "Laser Retroreflector Array of Geostationary Satellite ETS-VIII," URL: http://cddis.gsfc.nasa.gov/lw14/docs/papers/tar1a_tum.pdf
29) "Launch Schedule of Large Deployable Reflector Small-sized Partial Model 2 (LDREX-2)," Aug. 12, 2006, ULR: http://www.jaxa.jp/press/2006/08/20060812_ldrex-2_e.html
30) Shinichi Taira, Shin-ichi Yamamoto, Masaki Sato, "Aeronautical Mobile Satellite Communications Experiments Using the Engineering Test Satellite Eight," Proceedings of the 29th ISTS (International Symposium on Space Technology and Science), Nagoya-Aichi, Japan, June 2-8, 2013, paper: 2013-j-17
The information compiled and edited in this article was provided by Herbert J. Kramer from his documentation of: "Observation of the Earth and Its Environment: Survey of Missions and Sensors" (Springer Verlag) as well as many other sources after the publication of the 4th edition in 2002. - Comments and corrections to this article are always welcome for further updates (email@example.com).