TOKYO – Japan successfully launched on Tuesday the fourth and final satellite that makes up its terrestrial positioning network system, which will improve the current GPS services and help create a better communications system in the country in the event of a disaster.
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries launched a Japanese H-IIA rocket with the Michibiki-4 communications satellite from the space center on Tanegashima Island, in Kagoshima Prefecture, southwestern Japan, at 7:01 am local time (2201 GMT Monday).
The launch and flight of the rocket “proceeded as planned,” as well as the satellite separation, which was “confirmed 28 minutes and 21 seconds after the launch time,” JAXA said in a statement.
This is the second system that Japan launches as part of its Quasi-Zenith Satellite Systems, which operate at an altitude of between 33,000 and 39,000 kilometers above the earth and whose function is to correct the global navigation satellite system signals for complementary use of the global positioning system (GPS).
The first Michibiki, meaning “guide” or “guidance” in Japanese, was launched in Sept. 2010, allowing smartphone users and portable navigation devices in vehicles to receive more accuracy on maps.
The GPS, owned by the United States, has a margin of error of about 10 meters in global positioning; the coordination between the GPS and Michibiki will reduce the margin to between one meter and about six centimeters.
The Japanese government plans to use these satellites to establish communications during a malfunction of traditional networks due to a natural disaster.
To this end, Japan plans to launch three satellites between 2018-2023 that will complement the positioning network and establish the emergency communications system.