The Japan Times, September 17, 1998
LITTLE ISLAND WITH BIG FUTURE
Christmas cleared for spaceport
Japan has agreed with the Republic of Kiribati to build a Japanese spaceport on Christmas Island, according to sources from the National Space Development Agency of Japan.
NASDA will build the spaceport on a peninsula on the mid-Pacific island, which will be lent to NASDA free of charge for 20 years, the sources said.
NASDA will sign an agreement with the Kiribati government before the end of the year to formalize the deal, they said.
The planned spaceport initially will serve as a landing field for HOPE-X, Japan's test space shuttle now under development, and HOPE, its unmanned space shuttle, but it may be used later for launching shuttles and rockets, the sources said.
The spaceport will be built on the 200-sq.-km uninhabited peninsula, which has a 2,000-meter-long runway built by Britain during the 1950s to fly in instruments for nuclear tests. Britain and the United States conducted nuclear tests on Christmas Island between 1956 and 1963.
Construction of the spaceport will mark the first time Japan has used foreign soil for space development purposes, the sources said.
Under the proposed agreement, NASDA will hold the exclusive rights to the runway, which will be used for landing HOPE-X and HOPE, they said.
NASDA will develop the basic infrastructure needed for the spaceport, such as roads and facilities for water and electricity, the sources said.
NASDA will also repair the runway and take responsibility for preserving the environment, they said.
In the future, research and development of reusable rockets may be relocated to the spaceport from NASDA's Tanegashima Space Center in Kyushu after Japan's first commercial rocket-launching services begin at the space center in 2000, the sources said.
NASDA first considered areas inside Japan for the landing field but chose Christmas Island because of its geographic and climatic advantages, and also because NASDA has a rocket and satellite tracking station there, the sources said.
The candidates in Japan - including Magejima Island in Kagoshima Prefecture as well as Tono and Kamaishi in Iwate Prefecture, were ruled out due to overcrowded airspace and the necessity for space shuttles to fly over China and the Korean Peninsula to land, the sources said
NASDA and the Kiribati government agreed on the deal after three years of negotiations.
Kiribati is a republic consisting of 33 coral islands located around the equator in the mid-Pacific, with a combined size almost equal to that of Japan's Sado island.
The former British colony declared independence in 1979. It was briefly occupied by Japanese forces during World War II.
CHRISTMAS ISLAND , Kiribatl - Local residents use a net to haul in a catch. The National Space Development Agency of Japan plans to build a spaceport here that initially will serve as a landing field for space shuttles and later may be used to launch space shuttles and rockets. KYODO PHOTO