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Japan launches second satellite for home-grown GPS system

Staff Writer |
Japan on Thursday launched a satellite that provides more accurate geolocation information in combination with GPS, making it possible to improve guidance services for the emergence of self-driving cars and delivery drones.

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The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. launched an H-IIA rocket carrying the Michibiki No. 2 satellite from Tanegashima Space Center in Kagoshima Prefecture at 9:17 a.m. The satellite entered orbit 28 minutes later, JAXA announced.

The satellite, which sends out similar positioning information provided by the GPS system of the United States, will provide more accurate geolocation information to digital devices like smartphones. Compared with public GPS services, which have a margin of error of several meters, the new Japanese system will apparently offer accuracy down to the centimeter level.

Japan depends mostly on the U.S. GPS satellite network for its location information. But the Japanese satellites, which will basically stay in orbit above Japan and the Asia-Oceania region, will allow signals to be received unhampered by skyscrapers or mountains.

The highly precise system will likely play a significant role in controlling drones, self-driving cars and other autonomous machines that use location satellites, said Shogo Yakame, a consultant for Nomura Research Institute Ltd.

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