Interview with Masaharu Iiyoshi

In April 2023, a new unit specializing in StriX manufacturing called Team X3 was established in the Satellite System Development Department. Masaharu Iiyoshi, who has been engaged in space assembly for 50 years, leads the unit. He sat down with us to share his vision for Team X3.

On the day of the interview, March 23, 2023, there were ongoing preparations for the satellite vibration test of StriX-2 in Tsukuba. We were able to observe satellite clean room activities, which are included in the interview.

Hi, Iiyoshi-san. Let me first start by introducing you to our readers.

Masaharu Iiyoshi has been engaged in space assembly since 1973. This includes high-precision soldering of wire harnesses and design assembly, an arduous process requiring both experience and intuition. In 2006, the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare honored him as an Outstanding Technician (Modern Master Craftsman) for his ingenuity and dedication to his profession. He was also awarded the Medal with Yellow Ribbon by the Emperor of Japan for those who devote themselves to their work and serve as a role model for the general public.

Masaharu first supported the development and manufacturing of the StriX-α satellite as one of Synspective’s suppliers. He joined the company in 2022, and has been driving StriX manufacturing in the Satellite System Development Department ever since.

You have been spearheading space development and satellite manufacturing for a very long time. How did you choose this career path and what’s the source of your passion?

Masaharu: When I was a student, I got involved in amateur radio under the influence of a friend and became interested in communications equipment. I was also the type of person who found that the more complex activities such as jigsaw puzzles and plastic models were, the more interested I became in doing them. I wasn’t particularly into routine tasks so perhaps it was inevitable that I entered this world. I have been able to do this for a long time because I love what I do. Also, since each satellite is custom-designed, there are always changes and new insights. I think that’s why I have been able to do this for so long, because I’m never satisfied with my craft.

Please tell us a little about your perspective and “kodawari” with regard to satellite manufacturing.

Masaharu: I always strive to make it look beautiful. When installing the purchased parts, the shape is slightly different each time, so I try to imagine the completed state and optimal solutions as much as possible, making full use of my past experiences and expertise.

Being at the forefront of satellite manufacturing for 45 years, how did you come to join Synspective?

Masaharu: Being involved in the development of StriX-α as a supplier, I was asked to lend my strength to the project. I also believe you should finish what you start. That had an influence on my decision to join.

With your wealth of industry experience, what are some of Synspective’s strengths and what issues do you think need to be resolved in the future?

Masaharu: Synspective’s manufacturing base is composed of highly motivated young people. That’s great, and I hope that they will absorb my techniques as they continue to grow. I do, however, feel that we still lack the human resources and technology needed to make an excellent satellite. It’s critical that we first create a manufacturing foundation within the company.

Is Team X3 part of achieving that goal? Could you talk us through the mission of X3?

Masaharu: Team X1 centers on mechanical design, X2 supports manufacturing with process technologies, and X3 specializes in manufacturing. By having each team operate independently, members can organize their work and focus on the task at hand. X3 also focuses on building a foundation for Synspective’s manufacturing and succession planning with knowledge and technology sharing.

Also, I acquired a vocational training instructor license, something that was required at every company. I would like to leverage that at X3 to build a highly professional and technically capable team.

How do you envision building and managing Team X3 to become the cornerstone of production? Please also include your expectations for members.

Masaharu: In addition to building excellent satellites, I want to earnestly work on nurturing the next generation as a manager. At the same time, I encourage members not to be passive learners. After absorbing the techniques, I want members to be proactive and ambitious in pursuing their human potential and improving their capabilities. I say this as someone who is never satisfied with his craft and always trying to refine it. My message to members is that we need to grow collectively as a team and improve upon each other’s capabilities to successfully build a satellite manufacturing foundation here at Synspective.