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Japan's SDF launch 1st space unit to monitor threats to satellites

Japanese Defense Minister Taro Kono, 2nd from right, makes a speech at a ceremony in Tokyo on May 18, 2020, to mark the launch of the Air Self-Defense Force's space unit tasked with monitoring space debris, asteroids and other threats to artificial satellites. (Kyodo)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- The Self-Defense Forces on Monday launched Japan's first space operation unit tasked with monitoring space debris, asteroids and other threats to artificial satellites.

    The Air Self-Defense Force's space domain mission unit, based in Fuchu, western Tokyo, will cooperate with U.S. forces and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency in establishing a space situational awareness, or SSA, system that will help them to share information on such threats, the Defense Ministry said.

    The space unit, consisting of around 20 staff, will monitor the geostationary orbit around 36,000 kilometers above Earth using a new radar that will be built in Yamaguchi Prefecture, western Japan, the ministry said.

    The ministry is also aiming to launch its own space surveillance satellite by fiscal 2026.

    JAXA will monitor a low Earth orbit within the range of 1,000 km from its surface, as well as the geostationary orbit.

    They are planning to get the SSA system operational in fiscal 2023.

    The SDF have participated in multilateral tabletop space war games in the United States since 2016 and are planning to station personnel at the Combined Space Operations Center at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

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