The Defense Ministry is developing an infrared ray sensor for early warning satellites to help Japan detect ballistic missile launches on its own.
The sensor is expected to be loaded onto the “advanced optical satellite” of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) scheduled for launch in fiscal 2019. The satellite will be used as part of measures to prepare for disasters.
The ministry will conduct a demonstration test on the accuracy of the sensor in detecting from space an object on Earth that emits heat. Infrared ray censors can detect high-temperature objects at all times of the day and are considered indispensable for early warning satellites.
The development plan was revealed in a technology symposium in Tokyo by senior officials of the ministry’s Technical Research and Development Institute (TRDI).
“With the sensor, we will be able to decrease instances of wrong detections of missile launches,” said Yoshio Oguchi, director of the TRDI’s Advanced Defense Technology Center. “We want to establish a more accurate detection technology.”
Japan, which does not have its own early warning satellite, currently depends on information from the United States for North Korea ballistic missile launches.
The planned sensor will be able to simultaneously detect infrared rays with two different wavelengths, making it possible to distinguish between the heat of missiles and the heat from mountain fires or volcanic eruptions, officials said.
The Defense Ministry and JAXA have jointly conducted research on infrared ray sensors since April 2013, following legal revisions in 2012 that allowed JAXA to use outer space for security purposes.