Japanese Space Commitment Still Strong in Wake of Disaster
Japan’s space budget will take a hit as resources are diverted to recovery efforts following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, but the Japanese government is determined to maintain most space investment efforts, a top Japanese official said April 13.
Disaster recovery “will have a deep impact on every part of life and government policy in Japan, and space policy is no exception,” said Hirofumi Katase, deputy secretary general for Japan’s Cabinet secretariat on space policy.
But in the longer term, he said, the government is convinced that space utilization is something Japan cannot abandon. “The long-term benefits are recognized,” he said here during the National Space Symposium.
Katase did not address whether the Japanese government would postpone a decision to finance a second Quasi-Zenith satellite, which complements GPS positioning, navigation and timing signals to provide high-precision data in Japan and the surrounding region.
The first Quasi-Zenith satellite, called Michibiki, is in highly elliptical orbit to linger over Japan’s northern latitudes. For Quasi-Zenith to be fully operational, a second satellite is needed, and the Japanese government had been scheduled to decide the issue late this year.
Katase said the value of precision navigation data was demonstrated during the earthquake-caused tsunami as GPS wave meters — buoys placed off the Japanese coast — registered the sharp change in wave height in time to permit at lease some evacuation of coastal populations.
GPS and Quasi-Zenith assets will be needed in the coming months because so many property borders have been wiped out. Surveying to establish new borders will require satellite navigation, Katase said.
“We’ll need to measure the distance of roads from properties” from scratch, he said.