Deal To Permit Year-round Launches from Japan

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WASHINGTON — Japan will be able to loft satellites year round from its Tanegashima Space Center starting April 11 following a deal to lift longstanding restrictions that limited launches to two primary windows lasting a combined 190 days, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) announced July 29.

The restrictions were the result of agreements between JAXA and local fishing unions who were concerned about launch activity disrupting their livelihood in the waters surrounding Tanegashima, which is located on an island south of the Japanese mainland. Similar restrictions affecting Uchinoura Space Center on the mainland, which today is used for sounding rockets, also have been lifted, JAXA said.

The restrictions barred launch activity from March through June, all of October and for a weeklong period in July, according to JAXA. The restrictions have been blamed for Japan’s inability to be competitive in the global commercial launch marketplace, although the high cost of Japanese rockets also has been a factor.

In its announcement, JAXA cited Japan’s year-old Basic Plan for Space Policy, a sweeping policy affecting all areas of space activity. The policy calls for a re-examination of the launch restrictions given the importance of ensuring Japan’s independent access to space and to improve the competitiveness of Japanese commercial launch services.

According to the JAXA announcement, Japan will be limited to 17 launches per year, as was the case prior to the new agreement. Launch plans and fishery protection measures will be discussed by the relevant parties at the beginning of each fiscal year, JAXA said.