National / Science & Health

Japan to assign 100 personnel to new satellite monitoring unit

Kyodo

The Defense Ministry will assign around 100 personnel to a unit to be created by fiscal 2022 to monitor space debris and satellites, according to sources.

The Space Domain Mission Unit will track space debris such as used rocket parts and old satellites that pose a threat to working satellites orbiting Earth, the sources said Monday.

The unit will also monitor satellites operated by other countries as Japan aims to establish in cooperation with the United States and Europe a system to detect “hunter-killer” satellites that attack other satellites.

The members of the new unit will be stationed at the Air Self-Defense Force base in Fuchu, western Tokyo, and may be increased if joint operations with Japan’s allies grow in the future.

Under the latest national defense guidelines outlined in December, Japan is looking to bolster its defense capabilities in new domains of warfare such as outer space and cyberspace at a time when countries such as China and Russia have been expanding military activities in space.

The Defense Ministry plans to deploy ground radar in Yamaguchi Prefecture to help the unit gather information. The data from the radar will be shared with the United States.

The ministry is considering stationing ASDF personnel with the U.S. Air and Space Operations as part of strengthened space cooperation with U.S. forces.

The U.S. is looking to reinforce its space monitoring system as China and Russia are believed to be developing hunter-killer satellites, the sources said.

The guidelines state that the new domains of warfare, including outer space, have the potential to “fundamentally change the shape of national security,” which has so far focused mainly on conventional ground, sea and air forces.