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Japan launches its first navigation satellite

Japan: Japan launched “Michibiki,” the first of a planned series of satellites that promise to improve the accuracy of satellite navigation services in the country. It was sent into space atop a Japanese H-IIA rocket from the country’s Tanegashima Space Center on Saturday. The satellite later deployed its solar panels to complete a successful launch, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency confirmed.

Michibiki is the first in a planned series of three satellites that will provide navigation signals focused on the Japanese islands. Key to their mission is a figure-of-eight orbit that will see them make a tight northern swing over Japan and a much broader southern pass over Australia. This “quasi-zenith” orbit gave the project its name: Quasi-Zenith Satellite System (QZSS).

The orbit has been designed so that one of the planned three QZSS satellites is always in the skies above Japan. Because it will be almost directly above the country, its signals should be able to reach many city-centre streets and country areas that are sometimes out of the range of global positioning satellites because of skyscrapers or mountains.

The satellites will also broadcast a signal correcting any errors in GPS data so that positioning services can be delivered with more accuracy. The signals are intended to be compatible with those broadcast by existing satellites, hence it is expected to work with current navigation equipment without modification.

Source: PCWorld & JAXA