Hitoshi Kuninaka

Hitoshi Kuninaka
  • Program manager
  • Company: HAYABUSA2

Director of the Space Exploration Innovation Hub Center (TansaX), Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)

Professor at the Department of Space Flight Systems, Institute of Space and Astronautical Science

Dr. Kuninaka completed a Ph.D. program in aerodynamics at the University of Tokyo’s School of Engineering in 1988. That same year he took up a new post at the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science, which is now part of JAXA. In 2005, Dr. Kuninaka became a professor of aerospace engineering at the University of Tokyo’s School of Engineering. Dr. Kuninaka’s areas of expertise are electric propulsion and plasma engineering. He has been involved in the development of the ion engines for the Hayabusa asteroid explorers.
In 2011 he served as Lunar and Planetary Exploration Program Group Director, and in 2012, he became project manager of Asteroid Explorer Hayabusa2. Assumed his current post in 2015.


2004     Technical Prize for “Microwave-Discharge Ion Engine System”, Japan Society for Aeronautical and Space Sciences

2006    Space Pioneer Award to Hayabusa Mission Team, National Space Society

2007    Best Paper Award in 2005 IEPC of Electric Rocket Propulsion Society, IEPC-2005-10

2007    Best Paper Award in 2006 of AIAA Electric Propulsion Technical Committee, AIAA Paper 2006-4318

2010    AIAA Electric Propulsion Outstanding Technical Achievement Award of AIAA Electric Propulsion Technical Committee to Hayabusa Ion Thruster Team

2010    Special Prize of the Commendation for Science and Technology, for Establishment of Round-trip Space Technology in Hayabusa Asteroid Mission, Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology-Japan

2011    Von Braun Award to Hayabusa Project Team, National Space Society
2011    Laurels for Team Achievement Hayabusa, International Academy of
2012    Fellowship of American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA)
2012    International SpaceOps Award for Outstanding Achievement to Hayabusa
Operations Team, SpaceOps Organization
2013    Stuhlinger Medal, Electric Rocket Propulsion Society
2016    Elected as a corresponding member of AIAA International Academy of