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Japanese space boffins set to map the world in 3D

Two years and counting for PRISM project...

NASA 'Blue Marble' image of Earth taken on December 7, 1972, by the crew of the Apollo 17 spacecraft

Japan is set to take a major lead in the development of global 3D mapping by stitching together three million satellite images to compile a digital map of the planet.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) said it will use images acquired from the Daichi Advanced Land Observing Satellite (ALOS).

The satellite was apparently fired into orbit around the Earth in January 2006 and spent the next five years and four months observing the planet using Panchromatic Remote-sensing Instrument for Stereo Mapping (PRISM) technology for high-res, 3D imaging.

JAXA said it will begin processing digital 3D maps at a rate of 150,000 each month from this month, with an expected completion date of March 2016.

The agency added that the data will become the global standard for all 3D maps of Earth, with previously unheard of clarity and precision.

It explained the following:

The digital 3D map to be compiled this time has the world's best precision of five meters in spatial resolution with five meters height accuracy that enables us to express land terrain all over the world. Hence its strong character will prove useful in various areas including mapping, damage prediction of a natural disaster, water resource research etc.

JAXA is also planning to release a global digital elevation model (DEM) with lower spatial resolution of around 30 metres for use free of charge as soon as it is ready, in order to ramp up enthusiasm for the project.

Previous attempts to compile global 3D maps required airplanes to complete and therefore suffered from time and money constraints, said JAXA.

The agency will be hoping that no one beats it to the winning post over the next two years.

Back in 2012 JAXA admitted that malware on its system had exfiltrated data on the ¥15bn solid-fuel rocket system it was developing. ®

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