TOKYO – In a rare event, Mitsubishi Electric unveiled on Tuesday the latest satellite that Japan will use in its upcoming global positioning system, which is expected to become operational in April 2018.
The company opened the doors of its satellite production facility at Kamakura, located south of Tokyo, where the Michibiki No. 4 satellite was made, four days before the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency is set to send into orbit the third of the four components in the satellite system that aims to improve the accuracy of the existing GPS.
The function of Michibiki No. 4, supported by the second satellite – which is already in space –, will be to gather information on the environment, Mitsubishi said during the presentation.
The satellite has a deployed length of 19 meters (62 feet) and a design life of over 15 years.
The models in the Michibiki (meaning “guidance” or “navigation”) series are Quasi-Zenith satellites, which operate around 36,000 kilometers (22,370 miles) above the Earth.
They have been designed to improve global navigation and augment signals emitted by the United States’ GPS, which currently has a 10-meter margin of error.
However, Japan hopes to support its own version of the GPS with three more satellites by 2023.
The first of the Michibiki satellites was launched in September 2010, and the second on June 1 this year, while the agency plans to launch the third on Friday and the fourth before March 2018.
Once the system installation is completed, smartphone users and car navigation systems will receive more accurate map information, aimed at reducing the margin of error to between one meter and six centimeters.