Japan launches successor to aging GPS-improving satellite

© Kyodo News

Japan launched Tuesday a successor to its aging first quasi-zenith satellite, which has been working to provide accurate global positioning data for services such as autonomous driving cars and flying drones.

The new satellite produced by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. will replace the Michibiki No. 1 satellite, which was launched in 2010 and has reached the end of its design life.

It will work with three previously launched Michibiki satellites and complement the existing U.S. satellite network.

An H-2A rocket carrying the satellite lifted off at around 11:20 a.m. from the Tanegashima Space Center in Kagoshima Prefecture, southwestern Japan. The satellite was previously scheduled to be launched on Monday, but it was postponed due to bad weather.

The Japanese government plans to increase the number of satellites in orbit to seven in fiscal 2023 in order to enhance "Japanese GPS" with more precise global positioning system services.

The H-2A rocket carrying the satellite is 53-meter long and weighed around 290 tons at the time of the launch.