National

Japan drafts new space policy focusing on security to counter China

Kyodo

Japan is eyeing a new space development policy with a greater focus on security, taking into account China’s rapidly growing space capabilities, a draft document of the policy showed Wednesday.

In the draft, the government expresses concern that its information-gathering capabilities could be undermined and the Self-Defense Forces may not be able to operate fully if satellites are attacked, touching on tests carried out by China in recent years to destroy satellites.

The government is expected to endorse the draft 10-year Basic Plan on Space Policy later this year after discussing the content with the ruling parties. The current policy was decided in January 2013.

To deal with growing space debris due to antisatellite tests, satellite collisions and other reasons, the Defense Ministry, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and other entities are expected to work together to monitor such debris from ground stations.

The monitoring data will be shared with the United States, according to the draft.

Japan also plans to have a network of seven “quasi-zenith satellites” over the next 10 years to complement the GPS satellites operated by the United States. The satellites would be placed in quasi-zenith orbits for a more precise and stable satellite positioning service.

To strengthen the foundations of Japan’s space industry, the government said in the draft that it will seek to encourage the entry of more private companies into the sector by submitting a related bill to the Diet, possibly in 2016.

The government expects the public and private sector space market to reach a total of ¥5 trillion over the next decade.

Meanwhile, the promotion of space science, a priority area under the current policy, is given less importance, with a decreased number of specific goals such as for space exploration.

According to the draft, the government will decide by fiscal 2016 whether to join a U.S.-proposed plan to extend the operation of the International Space Station, an international project that Japan has also participated in.

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