GPS satellite

Japan launches its own GPS system with better accuracy than US

Japan launched a rocket carrying a satellite with a local version of the US global positioning system (GPS) on Thursday, which is expected to increase the precision of location information used in smartphones and car navigation systems.

Japan launched an H-2A rocket which carries the satellite called “Michibiki No.2” from a space centre in Tanegashima, southern Japan.

The nation launched the first Michibiki satellite into space in 2010 on a trial basis and it plans to send two more satellites later this year, according to the Cabinet Office.

Once the four satellites are in orbit, at least one satellite will be flying over Japan for eight hours per day.

Combining with the US GPS, the Japanese system will enhance the stability of receiving radio waves and increase the precision of position information.

The US GPS has a margin of error of about 10 metres, but used together with the Japanese system any positioning error will be reduced to only several centimetres.

The system is expected to be used for such activities as driverless tractors in farming and to help develop automated construction machines.

By the fiscal year 2023, the government plans to have launched a total of seven satellites into orbit to secure Japan’s own GPS system without depending on the US system.

Last year, Europe launched its own navigation system called Galileo that also boasted greater accuracy. Its primary drawback is that currently there are very few commercial devices such as smartphones that can receive the signal. 

Earlier this week a new study found that unreliable sat nav devices are routinely leading drivers astray to the point where they lose approximately 29 hours a year taking inefficient routes. 

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