Thursday, June 1, 2017

Japan Successfully Launches Michibiki Navigation Satellite

H-2A rocket No. 34 carrying the Quasi-Zenith Satellite Michibiki No. 2 lifts off on June 1 at the Tanegashima Space Center in Minami-Tanegashima, Kagoshima Prefecture. (Jun Kaneko)

To greatly boost the accuracy of Japan’s GPS system, an H-2A rocket carrying a navigation satellite successfully lifted off from the Tanegashima Space Center here on June 1. The H-2A No. 34 blasted off at 9:17 a.m. and about 28 minutes later, its payload successfully separated from the launch vehicle.

The satellite will enter an orbit at an altitude of approximately 36,000 kilometers in two weeks.

The Quasi-Zenith Satellite Michibiki No. 2 is expected to enhance the accuracy and reception of the existing global positioning system for Japan. It will transmit a signal to supplement the current U.S. GPS from almost directly above the Japanese archipelago.

The system is less susceptible to being blocked by buildings, mountains and other obstacles. When used with the GPS, the margin of error is estimated to be within a few centimeters.

The last rocket launch in the Michibiki series was held in September 2010, for the No. 1, which can remain over Japan for about only eight hours a day.

To improve on this limitation, the Japanese government is planning to create its own GPS system, which could provide better positioning readings with a higher degree of accuracy.

Japan plans to put another two Michibiki satellites in orbit by the end of 2017, for a total of four. These could combine to have a GPS system operating on a daily 24-hour basis from fiscal 2018.

The Cabinet Office estimated that the total cost of development and launch of the Michibiki No. 2, 3 and 4 would be 89.9 billion yen ($810 million).

To develop and operate the ground control system, the cost is estimated at 118.8 billion yen.

The June 1 liftoff marked the 28th successful launch in the H-2A series. The success rate of the launch vehicle is 97.1 percent.


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