Tanegashima (Tane-ga-shima) Island, lying in the Pacific Ocean, off the southern coast of mainland Japan, is not only a tropical paradise, but also supports an international effort to expand our knowledge of the universe, as well as the continuous study of our earth from space.
In addition, it’s the location of the largest space center in Japan, the Tanegashima Space Center, from which many satellites and rockets are launched and the headquarters of JAXA, the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency, located at the southeastern end of the island.
A gentle hill spreads across the whole island, with the highest spot being 282 meters (925 ft.) above sea level. The island is long and narrow, being 57.5 kilometers from north to south, and just 5 to 12 kilometers from east to west supporting many traditional rice, sweet potato and orange fields.
Late last month, the International Space Station (ISS) Program Office requested that the Test and Operations Support Contract (TOSC), located at Kennedy Space Center (KSC), prepare, escort and turnover to JAXA at Tanegashima, a piece of ISS flight hardware required on-orbit, called a “Galley Rack”. This advanced rack will provide ISS crew members improved food handling and preparations. Once turned over, the Japanese will load and launch the rack on their next launch, mission “HTV-5”.
A team of five KSC personnel, two of which were ERC employees, were assembled and sent to Tanegashima to support this 10 day international operation. Throughout our entire journey, our Japanese hosts were extremely polite and very helpful, both at work and during off-hours. Following a very successful and seamless “Galley Rack” turnover to JAXA, the TOSC team members headed back to the U.S., arriving on Saturday (4/10) afternoon in Atlanta, after a 12 hour flight from Tokyo. Using the ERC family first philosophy, we made new Japanese friends, while demonstrating that manned space flight truly requires an international effort.