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Japan’s Micro-Satellites Expand Space Race to Arctic Ice

As emerging space pioneers in China and India race to the moon and Mars, private-sector startups are quietly launching satellites the size of microwave ovens that aim to satisfy much more terrestrial desires.

Axelspace Corp. in November launched a micro-satellite from Yasny, Russia, that the Tokyo-based company says will help vessels navigate icebergs in the Arctic. Mountain View, California-based Skybox Imaging Inc. is planning a constellation of 24 orbitals to offer high-definition video of everything from the Somali coastline to Las Vegas traffic.