Meet the Rocketeers


What inspires someone to devote a career to pushing the boundaries of earth into space? In a roundtable discussion soon after successful launch of H-IIA rocket No.30, some key experts in the field looked back to their individual origins while looking ahead to the future.

“I first became interested in making a transfer vehicle when I saw Space Battleship Yamato as a child,” said Hiroaki Tezuka, a man with many years under his belt supervising the structural design and launch operations of launch vehicles, and who now overseas capital investments and personnel planning related to the launch team.

“I developed an interest in space when I read an illustrated reference book on astronomy in elementary school,” said Takenori Maeda, who overseas maintenance design of the LE-7A first-stage engine used in the H-IIA/B launch vehicles. “I still keep this very precious book!”

Tomokazu Koyama, who spearheads quality assurance for the liquid rocket engines, developed an interest by being tested on the job. “I was originally interested in airplanes, so I studied aircraft maintenance and joined MHI,” he said. “A few years later I was assigned to my current role, and through this, I started to really appreciate how interesting space development is.”

Iwao Igarashi, who has been in charge of rocket development since the very first test launch of the H-II, revealed, “My father was a civil engineer and he had some surveying instruments at home. In my elementary school days, I liked to look at the moon with them. When I observed the moon at a fixed point, the moon would suddenly go out of focus. Seeing that, I thought, ‘Wow, the earth really does rotate!’ Later, when I was in university, I studied solar power generation satellites at the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science, which formed a turning point for me, so I joined MHI and I have been here ever since.”

In addition to their work on the H-IIA/B, all are applying their knowledge and expertise to the development of the H3 launch vehicle, targeted for rollout in 2020, and which is to feature Japanese breakthroughs in the field. Hiroaki Tezuka said, “Developing the H3, we all may know that high-reliability is the top priority, but also have to remember that the customer is the satellite. This is a critical part in our launch and transportation service.”


Mitsubishi Heavy Industries