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Japan to build fleet of navigation satellites

Japan: The Japanese government has ordered three navigation satellites from Mitsubishi Electric Corp., expanding the country”s programme to augment GPS navigation signals for users in the Asia-Pacific region.

Japan”s Cabinet Office announced the expansion of the Quasi-Zenith Satellite System on March 29, approving a $526 million contract with Mitsubishi Electric for the construction of three satellites for launch before the end of 2017. Two of the spacecraft will be placed in inclined orbits, and one satellite will operate in geostationary orbit over the equator.

The Cabinet Office, which is chaired by the Japanese prime minister, approved another contract with a special-purpose company led by NEC Corp. to operate QZSS for 15 years. The contract, valued at more than $1.2 billion, also covers the design, verification and maintenance of the QZSS ground system.

The three new satellites will join Japan”s first quasi-zenith satellite, nicknamed Michibiki, launched in September 2010, forming a four-satellite constellation.

According to the Japanese government”s Office of National Space Policy, the country”s complementary navigation system will boost the availability of satellite-based positioning data. GPS signals are only available about 90 percent of the time in Japan, but satellite navigation will be possible 99.8 percent of the time with the QZSS satellites, Japanese officials said in a presentation to the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs.

Source: Space Flight Now