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Japan's first GPS satellite in operational orbit
by Staff Writers
Tokyo (UPI) Sep 28, 2010


disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only

Japan's first navigation satellite will improve positioning coverage in mountainous terrain and urban centers, authorities say.

The country's space agency announced the Michibiki satellite entered its orbit Monday over Asia.

Michibiki, which means "guiding" or "showing the way" in Japanese, will undergo three months of technology tests before it enters service.

Michibiki blasted off Sept. 11 from the Tanegashima Space Center, reaching a temporary orbit 30 minutes after launch. Controllers fired the satellite's main engine five times over the next six days to reach its prescribed orbital altitude.

Japan's satellite navigation program is intended to augment signals from the U.S. Air Force's Global Positioning System, a network of 30 spacecraft circling 11,000 miles above Earth.

A GPS terminal on the ground needs four satellites to compute position, but skyscrapers and mountains in Japan often block line-of-sight signals from spacecraft low in the sky.

Japan hopes that by launching up to three of its own satellites strategically positioned high in the sky over the country, their signals will not be impeded by man-made or natural terrain.

Officials will look at results from Michibiki before committing to launching the next two satellites.

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