Photo/IllutrationThe Asahi Shimbun

The government is moving to establish a command center within the Self-Defense Forces to track space debris from spent satellites and rockets, as well as keep an eye on suspect foreign satellites.

The program is set to be introduced as early as in fiscal 2022 and will likely be outlined in National Defense Program Guidelines the government plans to revise in December, according to government sources.

Itsunori Onodera, a former defense minister who heads the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s working group dealing with the guideline revisions, mentioned the plan during a lecture he gave in Tokyo on Nov. 19.

The program is intended to bolster Japan's ability to defend itself against aggressive cyber-attacks, threats in space and electromagnetic waves.

The Ground, Air and Maritime SDF will jointly operate the system.

Space debris poses a growing threat to satellites orbiting Earth as the volume of junk whizzing around at very high speeds has grown markedly in recent years.

The Space Situational Awareness (SSA) system will be formed to address such threats, as well as keep an eye on moves by China, which reportedly is developing technology to attack satellites operated by other countries.

The Defense Ministry has requested 26.8 billion yen ($238 million) for the program in the next fiscal year’s budget.

The space corps is expected to be based at the ASDF’s Fuchu Base in Fuchu on the outskirts of Tokyo, according to the sources.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency will help operate the SSA system. The Defense Ministry will share information on space debris with U.S. forces.

A radar capable of monitoring the situation in space at altitudes of 5,800 kilometers or higher will be set up at the former site for the MSDF’s Sanyo receiving station in the city of Sanyo-Onoda, Yamaguchi Prefecture.