Japan on 1 June 2017 launched a satellite to help build a high-precision geolocation system that will complement the US operated Global Positioning System (GPS).
The rocket carrying the Michibiki No. 2 satellite, H-IIA, was launched from the Tanegashima space center in Kagoshima Prefecture, Southern Japan. The same was confirmed by the footage recorded by Japan’s Aerospace Exploration Agency.
• The satellite geolocation systems, which were initially designed for the US military, power countless applications including car navigation and internet browsing on mobile phones.
• Japan aims to build its version with four satellites focusing on the country and wider region.
• The nation had launched its first Michibiki satellite into space in 2010 on a trial basis.
• It plans to launch two more satellites by March 2018, after which at least one satellite will be flying over Japan for eight hours per day.
• The Michibiki system can cover the Asia-Oceania region.
When combined with the US-operated GPS, the Japanese system would enhance the stability of receiving radio waves and increase the precision of position information. The US GPS has a margin of error of about 10 metres but together with the Japanese system positioning error will be reduced to only a few centimetres.
The system is expected to be used for activities such as driverless tractors in farming and also to help develop automated construction machines. Though GPS is widely used in Japan, having supplementary satellites is important in a country where mountainous terrain and high buildings may interfere with GPS signals.
The Japanese government plans to launch a total of seven satellites into orbit and secure Japan's own GPS system without depending on the US system by 2023.