New Japanese satellite could boost Internet speeds

Over the weekend, the Japanese counterpart to NASA successfully launched "Kizuna" (Winds), an experimental satellite that will be able to offer high-speed Internet access to users in 20 countries in the Asia-Pacific region.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) expects Kizuna to be the first step towards creating a powerful space-based telecommunications network.

After being delayed more than 95 minutes due to high winds and a fishing vessel entering the launch area, the launch vehicle lifted off at 5:55 pm Japan standard time Saturday (about 4:00 am EST Friday), and was able to separate from its H-IIA rocket transport 28 minutes after blasting off from the Tanegashima Space Center. Kizuna is expected to enter geostationary orbit in 17 days.

JAXA worked with the National Institute of Information and Communication Technology and Mitsubishi Heavy Industry to build and launch the $342 million, domestically constructed satellite project. It's expected to be in use for at least five years.

Since the satellite does not require a ground-based infrastructure, Kizuna, floating in orbit more than 35,000 kilometers above the Earth, will be able to provide Internet access in regions where natural disasters take place. Furthermore, the Japanese space agency will also use the satellite for remote educational and medical purposes, where medical treatment and proper educational facilities may not be present.

JAXA anticipates the satellite to offer Internet speeds up to 1.2 gigabytes per second while helping the thriving space agency to conduct around 100 different tests in space.

In one such experiment, JAXA is testing Internet capability in remote mountainous regions where Internet access is either non-existent or very unreliable. The number of Internet users in Asian nations is increasing dramatically, but millions of people are in remote locations where it is difficult to create an infrastructure for any type of Internet access. The ability to use Kizuna will enable users in these nations to communicate with the rest of the world at speeds previously unavailable to them.

Interested users, regardless of their location, only need to simply install a small antenna in their house or apartment that will allow them to "receive data at up to 155 Mbps and transmit data at up to 6 Mbps."

Although satellite Internet service is an aging technology that never took off due to the wide availability of land-based broadband Internet, Kizuna would be limited solely for private and humanitarian use.

The launch, originally scheduled for one week ago, had to be scrubbed last week after JAXA engineers discovered an issue with a gas jet thruster necessary for the launch rocket to blast off properly. JAXA expects Kizuna to officially begin transmission in July once initial testing and safety checks have been completed.

The Kizuna launch is an important step for JAXA to continue to catch up to the Chinese space agency, which thus far has been the leader in the Asian space race.

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