JAXA launches final Michibiki satellite to commence GPS augmentation

Launch of Michibiki-4 on Oct 10, 2017.

This morning, at 7:01 JST (Japan Standard Time), Japan’s space agency JAXA launched Michibiki-4, the final satellite needed to make Japan’s Quasi-Zenith Satellite System (QZSS) operational.

Michibiki-4 was launched using Mitsubishi Heavy Industries’ H-IIA Launch Vehicle No. 36, the same launch vehicle used for other Michibiki launches, from Tanegashima Space Centre. The launch was a textbook one, with the separation of Michibiki-4 occurring at 28 min 20 secs after liftoff.

The QZSS constellation is currently comprised of three orbiting satellites, and Michibiki-4 will be the fourth. Michibiki-1, launched in 2011, was meant to be a demonstration satellite but is still operation.  With Michibiki-4 already aloft, it is likely that QZSS will be operational by 2018, according to plan.

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Already, JAXA has suggested many uses of QZSS, including possibly offering its services to the private sector. For example, a recent joint venture between Mitsubishi Electric and 3 European companies, which sees the formation of a new company known as Sapcorda, intends to make use of QZSS’ Centimeter Level Augmentation Service (CLAS), a high-precision service that can augment GPS to centimeter-level accuracy.

The next JAXA launch will probably be of the Advanced Small-size Radar Satellite (ASNARO-2), using the Epsilon-3, a solid fuel rocket that can take scientific payloads to Low Earth Orbit (LEO). Originally scheduled for November 12, the launch has been postponed because of an issue with the electrical systems


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