Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and JAXA launch Michibiki satellite


Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries have launched the new Michibiki satellite from the Tanegashima Space Centre.

Lifted off by H-IIA launch vehicle no. 34 (H-IIA F34), Michibiki will help the country to build its own global positioning system (GPS).

Around 28 minutes after the launch, the satellite was released into its orbit.

Michibiki is JAXA’s second quasi-zenith satellite, which is designed to detect the location of objects on the ground accurately using radio waves.

Nikkei Asian Review reported that the satellite will fly directly over Japan to transmit signals to the ground, without being hindered by mountains and buildings. Direct signal transmission is likely to increase location data accuracy.

Equipped with data drawn from the traditional GPS, quasi-zenith satellites can help in identifying location of an object to within nearly 6cm, better than GPS' 10m capability.

"The satellite will fly directly over Japan to transmit signals to the ground, without being hindered by mountains and buildings."

The Japanese Government is planning to launch two more quasi-zenith satellites into space in the present financial year through next March, taking the total number of quasi-zenith satellites to four.

The government is also anticipating to increase the number of quasi-zenith satellites from four to seven by 2023.

An increase in the number of quasi-zenith satellites will enable Japan to reduce its dependence on GPS, a US system originally intended for military use.

Once operational, Japan’s home-grown system will be used in various applications such as self-driving cars.