Amid the coronavirus pandemic, the Japanese government for the first time in five years updated its Basic Plan on Space Policy while outlining the country’s 10-year basic space policy. It will work with the United States to not only track missiles but use intelligence-gathering satellites during natural disasters.
Japan aims to double its space industry by the early 2030s, which currently stands at $11 billion.
One of the key components of the plan is to put a Japanese man on the Moon by 2024 while working with NASA scientists.
Experts say Japan's space policy is being led as a reaction to China's 2013 Jade Rabbit lunar rover mission.
“The Government of Japan, recognizing such huge potential of outer space and the severe situation that it is facing, hereby decides a basic plan on space policy for coming ten years with the view of the next two decades, and will secure sufficient budgetary allotments and other necessary resources, and effectively and efficiently utilize these resources to strengthen its space policy through the whole-of-government- approach, while promoting public-private collaborations," the Japanse government said in a statement.
Air Self-Defense Force
Japan recently inaugurated the first Space Operations Squadron in Tokyo at Fuchu Air Base as an "Air Self-Defense Force" which will become fully operational by 2023.
It is meant to protect the country's satellite from damage, including armed attacks while working with the US Space Command.
Although Japan has ensured its space programme for peaceful purposes since the end of World War-II, in 2008 it unveiled the Basic Space Law under which Japanese officials will work with Department of Defense and US defence firms to monitor natural and space objects such as satellites and debris in the Earth’s orbit by developing new technologies.
China aims own GPS
Japanese and US offcials have been especially concerned over China's capability to jam or attack satellites with other neigbouring countries North Korea and Russia capable of upsetting the regional balance in arms technology.
Japan already operates the Quasi-Zenith Satellite System (QZSS), to enhance the US's Global Positioning System (GPS) in the Asia-Oceania regions, with a focus on Japan.
It is also planning to launch a new navigation system of GPS in 2023 with 7 satellites.
China's Mars mission
Japan's move comes even as China is targeting a July launch for its ambitious plans for a Mars mission which will include landing a remote-controlled robot on the surface of the red planet.
China has already carried out a similar mission to the Moon, and in January 2019 landed a small rover on the dark side of the lunar surface, becoming the first nation to do so.
The US, which has already sent four exploratory vehicles to Mars, intends to launch a fifth this summer. It should arrive around February 2021.
Last month, China had launched the final satellite in its homegrown geolocation system designed to rival the US GPS network. China started building its global navigation system in the early 1990s to help cars, fishing boats and military tankers navigate using mapping data from the country's own satellites.
Now the service can be used on millions of mobile phones to find nearby restaurants, petrol stations or cinemas, to guide taxis and missiles and fly unmanned drones.
Around 120 countries including Pakistan and Thailand are using Beidou's services for port traffic monitoring, to guide rescue operations during disasters and other services, according to Chinese state media.
US Space force
Japan's neigbour Russia had earlier accused the US of seeing space as a place to wage war after President Donald Trump announced the creation of the new Space Force military arm in December.
The Pentagon strategy stressed that the US would strive to maintain superiority in space, in particular protecting GPS satellites on which the military as well as the emergency services, transport and even financial services depend.
"China and Russia present the greatest strategic threat due to their development, testing and deployment of counterspace capabilities," it said, claiming that Moscow and Beijing are developing tools for jamming and cyberattacks that directly threaten US satellites.
Win the war in outer space
The midst of an escalating space war both the US and Japan have strengthened their "space relations" and are ready to build their network for the next 10 years as China eyes greater share of the space race.
All three countries - Japan, US and Russia will no doubt pour manpower and rerources as they look to stregthen their satellite force and find new ways to win the war in outer space.