Japan launches new spy satellite

September 23, 2011

Japan launched a new spy satellite into orbit Friday, officials said, in its latest effort to beef up surveillance against the threat of North Korean missiles.

The Japanese H-2A rocket carrying a new information-gathering optical satellite lifted off at 1:36 pm (0436 GMT) from the Tanegashima Space Center in southwestern Japan.

"The rocket was launched successfully and the satellite was separated into an orbit around the earth later," Naoki Takarada, an official of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), said by telephone from Tanegashima.

The new satellite, equipped with optical sensors, can distinguish objects on the ground with a resolution of some 60 centimetres (24 inches) from an altitude of around 500 kilometres (310 miles), according to media reports.

The government decided to build an intelligence-gathering system following North Korea's missile launch in 1998 into the Pacific over the Japanese archipelago.

In defiance of international pressure, North Korea launched again what was believed to be a three-stage Taepodong-2 missile in April 2009, with an estimated range of 6,700 kilometres (4,100 miles).

Japan's new satellite was the seventh to be placed into orbit since 2003 under the programme.

Of the previously launched four optical and two radar satellites, only three optical ones are still operating. The latest satellite will replace one of them which has passed its expected life of five years.

Optical satellites can capture images in daylight and in clear weather.

In the next two years, Japan plans to launch two radar satellites, which can capture images at night and in cloudy weather.

For security reasons, the government has refused to divulge details about the functions of these satellites.

The development cost of the latest satellite has reached 36 billion yen ($470 million) with its launch expenses amounting to 10 billion yen, according to the government.

The rocket had been initially scheduled to be sent into orbit on August 28.

But the state-run JAXA and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries had to postpone the launch three times due to poor weather conditions with the approach of a powerful typhoon and the discovery of a system glitch.

Explore further: Japan launches satellite for better GPS coverage (Update)

Related Stories

Japan launches 5th spy satellite

November 28, 2009

(AP) -- Japan launched its fifth spy satellite into orbit Saturday in a bid to boost its ability to independently gather intelligence, the government said.

Bad weather postpones Japan rocket launch

May 18, 2010

Japan on Tuesday postponed the launch of a rocket due to deploy a Venus probe and an experimental "space yacht" propelled by solar particles, because of bad weather at the launch site.

Recommended for you

Solar minimum surprisingly constant

November 17, 2017

Using more than a half-century of observations, Japanese astronomers have discovered that the microwaves coming from the sun at the minimums of the past five solar cycles have been the same each time, despite large differences ...

Lava or not, exoplanet 55 Cancri e likely to have atmosphere

November 16, 2017

Twice as big as Earth, the super-Earth 55 Cancri e was thought to have lava flows on its surface. The planet is so close to its star, the same side of the planet always faces the star, such that the planet has permanent day ...

NASA detects solar flare pulses at Sun and Earth

November 16, 2017

When our Sun erupts with giant explosions—such as bursts of radiation called solar flares—we know they can affect space throughout the solar system as well as near Earth. But monitoring their effects requires having observatories ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.