A new satellite put into orbit by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is designed to study the damages caused in disaster-stricken areas, as well as look into the extent of changes on the environment. The Advanced Land Observing Satellite-2, or ALOS-2, was launched into orbit over the weekend, and will be able to generate data on the areas hit by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, and even map out the progress of the rebuilding process, this according to JAXA officials.
The ALOS-2 was put into orbit by a H-IIA rocket built by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, and launched from JAXA’s facilities in Kagoshima Prefecture. As the memory of the 2011 twin disasters are still fresh in the Japanese public’s psyche and there are still areas in Japan heavily suffering from the devastation wrought by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami, the Japanese government is keen to have tools in place to make sure the country is as ready as possible for any such natural calamity that might hit. The data from the ALOS-2 is hoped to be beneficial to Japan, due in part to the country’s location on the “ring of fire” in the Pacific region, an area that is affected by 20% of the world’s earthquakes per year.
Not just focusing on the effects of earthquake, JAXA’s satellite, also dubbed “Daichi-2″, will study the effects of incidents such as landslides and floods that take place on land areas, something project manager Shinichi Suzuki calls a detailed “health check” of the Earth. The satellite will be able to collect images and patterns from its photographs, and then beam back to Japan data related to the movement of Earth’s crust. Among the ALOS-2’s other uses, it can also be designated to regularly look at tropical rain forests and see patterns there. These areas are often difficult to study because of thick clouds or layers of vegetation that can’t be seen through.