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Satnews Daily
August 21st, 2017

Japan's Third Quasi-Zenith Satellite Heads to Orbit

An H-IIA rocket lifts off from Tanegashima Space Center in Kagoshima Prefecture on Saturday carrying the Michibiki No. 3 satellite to orbit.

Photo is courtesy of AFP-JIJI.

After a week's delay, Japan has now successfully launched the third of the nation's new quasi-zenith satellites — the launch occurred on Saturday

This satellite is one of an entire constellation being placed into orbit to improve the accuracy of available global positioning data. The launch, overseen by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) came a week later than scheduled after the rocket that was to carry the satellite developed technical issues, causing the originally planned launch to be aborted. The new satellite system will improve positioning data for a range of applications, including for smartphones and vehicle navigation systems, and will better emergency service personnel's ability to locate people in disasters.

JAXA and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. launched the Michibiki No. 3 satellite, which is the third in a planned constellation of four GPS satellites, on an H-2A rocket from the Tanegashima Space Center in Kagoshima Prefecture, southwestern Japan. The planned launch on August 12 was postponed due to concerns over a possible helium leak. The gas is used to move valves in the first-stage rocket's engine, according to the constructor Mitsubishi Heavy. The problem was resolved through the replacement of a related component, the company said.

The newly launched satellite will work with the first and second Michibiki satellites and complement the existing U.S. satellite network that Japan and many other countries depend on. Once in its final position, this third satellite will slot into a geostationary orbit — the Japanese government is scheduled to launch the final satellite for their constellation in October.