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Tokyo to begin marketing GPS successor in 2020

New positioning service promises pinpoint accuracy in Asia

An H-IIA rocket blasts off from the Tanegashima Space Center in Kagoshima Prefecture, western Japan, on Aug. 19.   © Kyodo

TOKYO -- The Japanese government is eyeing 2020 to begin promoting exports of a technology it is developing to eclipse the GPS, a government official said on Saturday.

Masaji Matsuyama, minister of state for science and technology policy, said the government will target Asia for the exports.

These applications could include anything from detecting potholes to operating unmanned construction machinery, the minister said.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), on Saturday successfully sent a third satellite for the system into orbit.

An H-IIA rocket carrying the Michibiki No. 3 quasi-zenith satellite blasted off from the Tanegashima Space Center in Kagoshima Prefecture, southwestern Japan.

Japan's improved GPS is expected to prompt the development of a range of services in sectors from autonomous driving to cargo management.

The promotional campaign will target customers in Southeast Asia and Australia.

The planned launch of Michibiki No. 4 in October, if successful, will complete a four-satellite constellation. That is enough for one of the satellites to be above much of Asia, including Japan, at all times. Services in the region that adopt the system will be able to rely on the constellation 24 hours a day.

The system will be more precise than the GPS -- with a margin of error of several centimeters. This should have services that need pinpoint accuracy clamoring for the system.

Japan's Geospatial Information Authority is already assisting the Thai government in using data from Michibiki satellites.

Tokyo also plans to engage the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in talks to seek ways for its members to use the new system.

(Nikkei)

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