Aimed to improve GPS accuracy, Japan launches third satellite ‘Michibiki’

New Delhi: In an effort to build a homegrown geolocation system and help improve the accuracy of car navigation systems and smartphone maps to mere centimetres, Japan launched its third satellite – the “Michibiki”.

Launched aboard an H-IIA rocket that took off at about 2:30 pm (05:30 GMT) from the Tanegashima space centre in southern Japan, Michibiki, meaning “guidance” in Japanese, will cover the Asia-Oceania region and is intended for civilian use.

The launch was initially scheduled last week but was postponed due to a technical glitch.

Satellite geolocation systems, initially designed for the US military, now power countless civilian applications, from car navigation to internet browsing on mobile phones.

Japan relies on the US-operated Global Positioning System (GPS). Today’s launch was part of a broader plan to build a domestic version with four satellites focusing on the country and wider region.

The first satellite was put into orbit in 2010 and the second was launched in June.

The fourth is to be launched by March 2018 to start up the service.

The Japan-built system will still need to operate in tandem with GPS.

Though GPS is widely used in Japan, having supplementary satellites is important in a country where mountainous terrain and high buildings may interfere with its signals.

Japan plans to boost the number of its satellites in orbit to seven by around 2023.

(With PTI inputs)