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May 23rd, 2014
Japan Set to Launch the Advanced Land Observing Satellite-2 on Saturday

The Advanced Land Observing Satellite-2 (ALOS-2) is follow-on mission from the “DAICHI”, which contributed to cartography, regional observation, disaster monitoring, and resource surveys. ALOS-2 will succeed this mission with enhanced capabilities. Specifically, JAXA is conducting research and development activities to improve wide and high-resolution observation technologies developed for DAICHI in order to further fulfill social needs.

The launch time of the H-IIA Launch Vehicle No. 14 (H-IIA F14) with the DAICHI-2 onboard was set for 12:05:14 p.m. on May 24 (Sat.) 2014 (Japan Standard Time). JAXA will broadcast a live launch report from the Tanegashima Space Center from 11:15 a.m. on the day. You can watch it through the Internet at home.

Characteristics of Advanced Land Observing Satellite-2 “DAICHI-2” (ALOS-2)

1) Disaster monitoring of damage areas, both in cosiderable detail, and when these areas may be large
2) Continuous updating of data archives related to national land and infrastructure information
3) Effective monitoring of cultivated areas
4) Global monitoring of tropical rain forests to identify carbon sinks.

The state-of-the-art L-band Synthetic Aperture Radar (PALSAR-2) aboard ALOS-2, which is an active microwave radar using the 1.2GHz frequency range, will, in responding to society’s needs, have enhanced performance compared to DAICHI/PALSAR. The PALSAR-2 is capable of observing day and night, and in all weather conditions.

Precise diagnosis of the earth using “L-band SAR” Japanese advanced technology

ALOS-2 will have a spotlight mode (1 to 3m) and a high resolution mode (3 to 10m), whilst PALSAR has a 10m resolution. It will allow comprehensive monitoring of disasters by providing users with more detailed data than DAICHI/PALSAR.

The observation frequency of ALOS-2 will be improved by greatly expanding the observable range of the satellite up to about 3 times, through an improvement in observable areas (from 870km to 2,320km), as well as giving ALOS-2 a right-and-left looking function, currently not available on DAICHI/PALSAR.

ALOS-2’s roles can be divided into three categories:

  1. 1. It will protect our wellbeing and contribute to fighting disasters. ALOS-2 will determine the nature and extent of damage when disasters occur: the deformation of the Earth’s crust, known as diastrophism, which accompanies earthquakes; flooding due to typhoons and tsunami; and lava flow during volcanic eruptions. It will also measure changes in terrain caused by landslides and subsidence, thus helping prevent disasters.
  2. 2. It will contribute to solving environmental problems such as global warming. Its first task in this respect is to create a comprehensive map of the Earth’s forests. Forests absorb greenhouse gases, which cause global warming. If we can accurately measure the actual area covered by the Earth’s forests, then we can estimate the amount of carbon they absorb. Illegal logging has been a frequent occurrence in recent years in countries such as Brazil, but if we can detect it, then that can help stop it and conserve the environment. In addition, the effects of climate change are most apparent in the polar regions. By observing the polar regions’ glaciers over the long term, the satellite will contribute to easing environmental problems. Also, for example, information on ice floes in the Sea of Okhotsk will be provided to the Japan Coast Guard, and used to ensure the safety of ships.
  3. 3. The third role is to contribute to society at large, and to the economy. For example, by measuring how much land is used for wet-field rice cultivation, the satellite will help solve food-related problems. Due to population growth in Asian countries, these problems are severe. To tackle food shortages, it is important to monitor the state of agriculture in Japan and elsewhere in Southeast Asia. In addition, the satellite will probe underground resources. For example, off-shore oil reserves can sometimes be detected by spotting oil leaks on the ocean’s surface. Detecting such leaks will help find new resources.