Hitoshi Kuninaka Director General, Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS) Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)


Dr. Hitoshi Kuninaka received his Ph.D from the University of Tokyo in 1988. He was promoted to Associate Professor and Professor of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, Japan, in 2000 and 2005, respectively. He held concurrently the post of Professor in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, University of Tokyo, Japan, from 2004 to 2018. In 2018, he became the Director General of the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS) as well as Vice President of Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).

He researches the plasma interaction of satellites and develops electric propulsions. He participated in the satellite project, Space Flyer Unit, from 1988 to 1996, and successfully brought it back to Earth via Space Shuttle STS-72. Microwave discharge ion engines, which were invented and developed by Dr. Kuninaka, took Hayabusa explorer on a round-trip journey between Earth and an asteroid from 2003 to 2010. The engines also have been propelling Hayabusa2 explorer toward another asteroid since 2014. The Hayabusa project team has been honored with the National Science Society (NSS) Space Pioneer Award, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) Electric Propulsion Outstanding Technical Achievement Award, NSS Von Braun Award, International Academy of Astronautics Laurels for Team Achievement, SpaceOps Organization International SpaceOps Award for Outstanding Achievement among others. He received AIAA Fellow membership in 2012 and IAA Space Engineering Section Correspond Member in 2019.