Home >> News: March 27th, 2017 >> Story
Satnews Daily
March 27th, 2017

Japan's Government to Enhance Measures for Satellite Malfunctions

The Cabinet Office will strengthen measures to cope with emergencies involving the malfunction of satellites operated and administered by the government, starting in fiscal 2017, sources said.

The measures are aimed at such incidents as malfunctions and sudden operations failures following cyber-attacks.

As an initial step, the Cabinet Office will ask other relevant ministries and agencies to review their alternative measures in case of satellite malfunctions, according to the sources. 

If these alternatives prove inadequate, the Cabinet Office will require the ministries and agencies to explore new measures, including the launch of backup satellites.

Satellites operated by the government include an information-gathering satellite to observe other countries’ military facilities launched on March 17, and the Himawari meteorological satellite for observation of typhoons and other weather phenomena. 

Satellites play a wide range of roles in various fields, including security, telecommunications, disaster prevention and economic activities.

If these satellites malfunction, it is difficult to repair them quickly or launch alternative satellites.

A large volume of space debris is flying in orbit, including parts of rockets launched in the past. 

In 2013, a foreign satellite was hit by debris and became inoperable.

Experts point to concerns that satellites important to the nation’s security may be targeted by cyber-attacks.

The Cabinet Office has therefore decided to have related ministries and agencies create a checklist for satellites in operation, starting as early as next fiscal year. 

They will be required to consider such criteria as satellites’ resistance to collisions with space debris, and the drafting of plans for specific alternative measures and other steps if the satellites become inoperable.

About 50 satellites will likely be covered by the studies.

In addition, the Cabinet Office plans to ask the ministries and agencies to make plans for restoring satellites and other measures in case of emergencies involving satellites whose launch is still forthcoming, according to the sources. 

The Cabinet Office also plans to conduct simulations for the purpose.

If space debris with a radius of 10 centimeters or larger in diameter collides with a satellite, there is a high risk of the satellite malfunctioning.

There are estimated to be nearly 20,000 pieces of space debris of that size, about 10 times more than there were 50 years ago.

In a report to Congress in 2011, the U.S. government revealed that the satellite-control system of the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration had been subject to cyber-attacks. 

The Yomiuri Shimbun in the Japan News