Satellite launch takes Japan closer to its own GPS

The H-IIA rocket, carrying Japan's Michibiki 2 satellite, lifting off from its launching pad at Tanegashima Space Centre yesterday. Japan plans to launch a more accurate geolocation system that will run in tandem with the US' GPS next year.
The H-IIA rocket, carrying Japan's Michibiki 2 satellite, lifting off from its launching pad at Tanegashima Space Centre yesterday. Japan plans to launch a more accurate geolocation system that will run in tandem with the US' GPS next year.PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO • Japan successfully launched a satellite yesterday as part of a broader effort to build a home-grown geolocation system that boosts the accuracy of car navigation systems and smartphone maps to mere centimetres.

An H-IIA rocket blasted off yesterday morning from the Tanegashima space centre in southern Japan carrying the "Michibiki" No.2 satellite, which was later released into orbit.

"The launch was a success," a Cabinet Office spokesman said.

Satellite geolocation systems, initially designed for the US military, now power countless civilian applications, from car navigation to Internet-browsing on mobile phones.

Japan relies on the US-operated Global Positioning System (GPS). Yesterday's launch was part of a broader plan to build a domestic version with four satellites focusing on the country and wider region.

The first satellite was put into orbit in 2010 and the third and fourth are to be launched by March next year to start the service.

The Japan-built system will still need to operate in tandem with GPS. Though GPS is widely used in Japan, having supplementary satellites is important in a country where mountainous terrain and high buildings may interfere with its signals.

Michibiki, meaning guidance in Japanese, can cover the Asia-Oceania region and is intended for civilian use.

By fiscal 2023, the government plans to have launched seven satellites into orbit and secure Japan's own location system without depending on the US system.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 02, 2017, with the headline 'Satellite launch takes Japan closer to its own GPS'. Print Edition | Subscribe