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Asian firms to collaborate on first earth observation satellite

Japanese trading house Itochu Corp., satellite communication firm Jsat Corp. and three other firms plan to jointly launch earth observation (EO) satellites as soon as 2008, becoming the first in Asia to do so, said a news report.

The group, which also includes NTT Data Corp., Imageone Co. and NEC Toshiba Space Systems Ltd., seeks to gain a foothold in the commercial satellite imaging market, the Nihon Keizai Shimbun said.

The five firms will establish a jointly held company in August, with plans to launch two satellites in 2008 or later, it said. The new entity will have an initial capital base of 200 million yen (US$1.8 million), and its president will be sent from Itochu, it said.

The low-altitude remote sensing satellites to be used will orbit the earth at about 500 to 1,000 kilometres, the Nihon Keizai said. They will employ the most advanced commercial-satellite-compatible cameras, enabling them to provide images of objects smaller than one metre across. The satellites will cover nearly all points on earth, the newspaper said.

While government-affiliated entities in Japan have launched multiple EO satellites to observe weather-related phenomena, the nation’s civil satellite industry has been limited to such sectors as communications and broadcasting.