National / Politics

Japan plans to install radar system in Yamaguchi Prefecture to monitor foreign 'killer' satellites


A new space radar system that Japan aims to put into operation in Yamaguchi Prefecture in fiscal 2023 will be designed to monitor not just space debris but also foreign “killer” satellites, government sources have said.

The move comes at a time when Russia and China are believed to be developing such technology, aimed at attacking the satellites of other countries.

With the new radar, the government plans to broadly monitor objects harmful to the peaceful use of outer space, while sharing related information with the U.S. military, the sources said.

Space surveillance is a key element of the concept of “cross-domain operations,” which the government included in its new National Defense Program Guidelines, in the face of diversifying security threats.

The Defense Ministry plans to set up a space surveillance unit under the Air Self-Defense Force.

The new space radar will be installed at the site of a former radar station of the Maritime Self-Defense Force in the city of Sanyo Onoda, Yamaguchi Prefecture.

The ministry aims to complete the development of the radar in fiscal 2022 and begin to operate it in fiscal 2023, mainly for surveillance in a geostationary satellite orbit at an altitude of some 36,000 km (about 22,400 miles).

The ministry will cooperate with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) on the monitoring of space debris and has dispatched ASDF members to JAXA to learn about space monitoring.

JAXA will offer data from two space observation facilities in Okayama Prefecture to the ministry’s related system to be set up at the ASDF’s base in Fuchu, western Tokyo.

According to the ministry, China conducted an experiment to bring satellites close to each other in 2010. Meanwhile, the U.S. government revealed in August that a Russian satellite launched last year had made unusual moves.