There are so many reasons to explore Japan, and now that rocket launches have started at Tanegashima Space Center, Japan’s Space Race adds another dimension of excitement to your travels.
Whether you’re a space enthusiast or an intrepid adventurer, watching rocket launches from Tanegashima Space Center is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that’s not to be missed.
Secure your spot with this handy guide to the best places to watch rocket launches from Tanegashima Space Center.
Ready, steady, LAUNCH!
Japan’s Tanegashima Space Center is the Hub of Japan’s Space Industry
The beautiful Ōsumi Island of Tanegashima (種子島) is the location of Japan’s launch pad to the stars.
The Tanegashima Space Center (種子島宇宙センター) is Japan’s largest rocket launch complex, taking up just up to 10 square kilometers on the 444 square kilometer island.
The Ōsumi Islands of Kagoshima Prefecture where the space center is located are about 40 kilometers south of Kyushu and are accessible by airplane or ferry.
The Tanegashima Space Center (TNSC) has been on the island since 1969.
It was founded by Japan’s National Space Development Agency of Japan (NASDA) and has been run by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) since 2003.
In recent decades JAXA has invested in massive upgrades to the TNSC to make it a world-class facility for rocket engine firing tests and satellite assembly, testing, and launches.
Facilities at the Tanegashima Space Center
The TNSC is equipped with world-class infrastructure for rocket launches.
Not only are launch vehicles assembled and maintained on site, TNSC also undertakes activities like the loading of satellites onto launch vehicles, and tracking rocket post liftoff.
Key locations at Tanegashima Space Center include:
- Spacecraft Test and Assembly Building
- Yoshinobu Launch Complex
- Takesaki Range Control Center
- Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB)
A packed schedule of rocket launches for Tagashima Space Center for the next ten years
The Japanese Government has an ambitious space agenda which includes the development of programs that will cover space science, space exploration, defense, disaster prevention, and mitigation.
In the next decade, Tanegashima Space Center is going to be center stage for Japan’s civil, commercial and defense launches. In addition, the emerging space tourism industry is likely to use TNSC as a hub.
Rocket launches at the Tanegashima Space Center
Rocket launches have been taking place at Tanegashima Space Center since 1975. The frequency of launches is set to increase in the coming years making the island of Tanegashima one of the best locations in the world for watching a rocket launch.
Launches take place at the Yoshinobu Launch Complex where there are two launch pads, LP-1 and LP-2. There is also the older Osaki Launch Complex that may also be used for rocket development and launches.
There is a packed schedule of launches at Tanegashima Space Center
|Sat Aug 26, 2023 01:34 GMT+1
|H-IIA 202 | SLIM & XRISMLocation: LA-Y1, Tanegashima Space Center, Japan
|H-IIA 202 | GOSAT-GWLocation: LA-Y1, Tanegashima Space Center, Japan
|H3-24 | Martian Moon eXplorerLocation: LA-Y1, Tanegashima Space Center, Japan
|Epsilon S | DESTINY+Location: Mu Pad, Uchinoura Space Center, Japan
|Epsilon S | RAISE-4 & OthersLocation: Mu Pad, Uchinoura Space Center, Japan
Watching rocket launches from Tanegashima Space Center
Tanegashima island is one of the best locations in the world to get up close to a live space rocket launch because it is such a small island.
But, on launch day, all areas of the Tanegashima Space Center are off-limits to the public, with a further 3-kilometer restriction zone surrounding the launch pad.
Don’t even try to skip the boundary as the area will be heavily patrolled and you’ll be turned back.
However, 3 kilometers is really not that far at all! So there are plenty of locations where you can get great views of launch day at Tanegashima.
The 3 best places to watch rocket launches from Tanegashima Space Center?
The town of Minamitane is the #1 destination for watching rocket launches on the island of Tanegashima.
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA ) recommends the following Minamitane locations for getting the best views of Tanegashima’s Japanese rocket launches:
- Hasetenbo Park: 〒891-3701 Kagoshima, Kumage District, Minamitane 新長谷
- 前之峯陸上競技場 (Minamitane Cycling Park): 〒891-3701 Kagoshima, Kumage District, Minamitane, Nakanokami
- Eminokotenbo Park: 長小田-1352-27 Hirayama Minamitane, Kumage District, Kagoshima 891-3702
- Uchugaoka Park: 1972 Nakanoshimo Minamitane, Kumage District, Kagoshima 891-3704
These are the very best locations because JAXA provides a live countdown at this location so you can feel part of the action!
Watch a live rocket launch from Tanegashima Space Center
Take a look at a live rocket launch from Tanegashima Space Center:
Here is the link for the live stream from Tanegashima Space Center. If you cannot make the launch in person, this is where you can see live launches streamed direct from the launch pad: Live camera of Tanegashima Space Center
Visit the Tanegashima Space Science and Technology Museum
You can get close to the Space Center before or after the launch by visiting the Tanegashima Space Science and Technology Museum which is located nearby the TNSC.
It has some breathtaking exhibits and educational and interactive displays that share the history of space aviation and rocket technology in Japan.
There are some English leaflets that are helpful for explaining exhibits.
You can also sign up for a free bus tour that includes a trip to the actual launch site at Tanegashima. Visitors are not allowed to film or take pictures at the launch site.
How to get to Tanegashima for rocket launches
Though there is a ferry, flights are by far the easiest way to get to the island of Tanegashima. There aren’t many direct flights to Tanegashima. Most people will have to fly via Kagoshima.
You can book flights from Tokyo Haneda Airport (HND) to Kagoshima Airport (KOJ).
From there, you can fly directly to Tanegashima Airport (TNE/RJFG) or take the ferry from Kagoshima which costs 10,300 yen and takes just over 90 minutes.
There are ferry departures on the “Toppy” and “Rocket” hydrofoil ferries five times per day, every day.
Need flights to get to Tanegashima for a rocket launch? Get the latest flights and competitive prices here!
Where to stay in Tanegashima to watch rocket launches
Space enthusiasts will need to be as close to the action and excitement of a live rocket launch as possible.
The island of Tanegashima has great transportation, but the best accommodation for anyone interested in the Space Center will be in the southern town of Minamitane which is just a few kilometers from all the action.
Here are some great Minimato accommodation options (with the beach just moments away):
- Tanegashima Minshuku Hapisuma: Clean, simple, 2-star accommodation with rooms that sleep up to four guests. Great breakfasts are prepared by your hosts. (Check prices on booking.com)
- Tanegashima Iwasaki Hotel: A popular beachfront resort hotel with sea views and two swimming pools. (Compare prices on booking.com and expedia.com)
- Tanegashima Minshuku Yuyu: A three-star ryokan with a garden, serving a heart Asian breakfast daily. (Check prices on booking.com)
I think Tanegashima is going to become one of the world’s most popular destinations for viewing space launches.
It is incredibly accessible with great attractions and beaches and outstanding Japanese hospitality. Remember the #1 spot is going to be Minamitane!
There’s so much more to do and explore in Tanegashima! Read my post: 10 Things to Do and See on Tanegashima Island
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