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The Defense Ministry plans to establish a second space operations unit at the Air Self-Defense Force’s Hofu Kita Air Base in Yamaguchi Prefecture in fiscal 2022, informed sources said Saturday.

The squadron will monitor sabotage activities against Japanese satellites.

Japan aims to keep up with the United States and China in the field of space, which is becoming a new area of competition between world powers.

The planned launch of the new space unit was included in the ministry’s fiscal 2022 budget requests announced in August. Later, the ministry chose the Hofu Kita base for the new unit because it is a suitable site for the monitoring of satellites flying over Japan, the sources said.

The new squadron, to be made up of around 20 personnel, will be in charge of investigating the sources and characteristics of radio waves that interfere with communication between satellites and systems on the ground.

In May last year, the ministry created the Space Operations Squadron, the first space unit at the Self-Defense Forces, at the ASDF’s Fuchu Air Base in western Tokyo. The unit chiefly monitors space debris, a threat to satellites.

In the current fiscal year, the ministry expects to set up a space operations command unit at the Fuchu base, aiming to create a space operations group, which will mainly comprise the existing and new space operations squadrons and the planned command unit, the sources said.

In fiscal 2022, the ministry will reorganize the Space Operations Squadron at the Fuchu base into the First Space Operations Squadron and launch a space system management unit of about 10 people that will manage related equipment. The total number of staff members at the space operations group will rise to about 120, the sources said.

The space operations group is expected to start full-scale activities in fiscal 2023, when a space situational awareness, or SSA, system will go online. Japan is aiming to launch an SSA satellite by fiscal 2026.

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