February 21, 2006

Japan launches satellite, second success in a week

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan launched a research satellite into space on Wednesday, its second successful launch in less than a week and an additional boost to a space program plagued by a string of mishaps in recent years.

The launch of the M-5 rocket and infrared astronomical satellite, delayed by a day due to rain, followed Saturday's successful launch of a larger H-2A rocket carrying a multipurpose satellite to be used for controlling air traffic and gathering meteorological data.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency said the latest satellite, to be used to detect new objects in space, successfully entered orbit shortly after liftoff.

In January, Japan successfully put a land-observation satellite into orbit with an H-2A rocket after a lapse of nearly a year.

The consecutive launches will likely bolster Japan's plans to enter the commercial satellite business and lift confidence among the country's space community, which came under fire in the 1990s after two unsuccessful launches of H-2 rockets, the H-2A's predecessor.