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JAXA Tanegashima Space Center

JAXA Tanegashima Space Center

About JAXA, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency

On September 11, 2009, the news of the successful launch of an H-IIB testing rocket, equipped with a machine to verify the technology of an HII transfer vehicle (HTV), from Tanegashima Space Center was reported throughout Japan. This is still vivid in our memory. Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency or JAXA must be a place where the essence of Japanese technology is gathering. What is it like? We gained special permission from Tanegashima Space Center to cover a story about the HTV before its launch.
In terms of total area, Tanegashima Space Center is the largest rocket range in Japan. Located on the coastal line at the southeastern end of an island, it is said to be “the most beautiful rocket range in the world”. Activities within the facility include, among others, command controls concerning the assembly and launch of rockets, final check of satellites, loading a rocket and the launch of rockets. Guided tours of the facility are available. (For tour information, see the JAXA website.)

HTV, HII transfer vehicle

Finally, Nakata saw HTV, the reason for his visit. It is 10 meters in overall length and 4.4 meters in diameter, almost as large as a large-sized bus. The HTV is larger than a conventional satellite. Many years of the project was spent on such activities as deliberating and constructing the building for assembly and maintenance, and planning the range of travel. HTV is said to be the culmination of space exploration technologies in Japan such as space transportation, navigation guidance and manned environmental control. Here, food, clothes, experimental devices and other supplies are sent from Earth to the International Space Station.
Space Science Technology Museum, located within Tanegashima Space Center, displays numerous full-size models, games and other exhibits about different areas in space exploration, such as rockets, artificial satellites, the International Space Station plan, earth observation, astronomy and planets. Among the exhibits is a full-size model of Kibo, the Japanese experiment module that was constructed with cooperation of 15 countries and is part of the International Space Station plan. Visitors may enter Kibo and experience a simple, space experiment simulation. Children and grown-ups alike can enjoy learning at the facility.

Dreaming about space

Humankind’s aspiration and quest for space will not end. It has remained unchanged after Gagarin succeeded in the first-ever manned space flight in 1961. At JAXA, numerous projects have been planned for and after 2010. Akatsuki (PLANET-C), a Venus probe scheduled to be launched in 2010, will arrive at the orbit around Venus within a half year after launch, and will spend about two years studying the atmosphere of Venus. JAXA is looking for messages to be sent by Akatsuki along with the names of the persons who provide them.
The first quasi-zenith satellite, scheduled to be launched in 2010, is looking for a nickname. A campaign is also under way to select one applicant by lot and invite him/her and a plus-one to Tanegashima Space Center to view the launch of its first quasi-zenith satellite. Joining this, too, would also be a lot of fun.
(Interview and manuscript 2009)


Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)
Mazu, Kukinaga, Minamitane-cho, Kumage-gun, Kagoshima