December 12, 2011
New Japanese Spy Satellite Successfully Launches
Officials said that the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) launched a new spy satellite into orbit on Monday.
The satellite launched aboard a Japanese H-2A rocket at 10:21 a.m. from the Tanegashima Space Center in southwestern Japan.
JAXA said the radar satellite successfully separated from its rocket and was in orbit just 20 minutes after it was launched.
The information-gathering satellite was built due to concerns over North Korea's missile program and also to help monitor natural disasters.
The Japanese government decided to build the satellite after North Korea launched a missile in 1998 that flew over the Japanese archipelago and into the Pacific.
North Korea also launched a three-stage Taepodong-2 missile in defiance of international pressure in April 2009.
Demand for an information-gathering satellite also grew after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami struck Japan, killing about 20,000 people.
"The project is aimed at boosting security and monitoring land in case of sizable natural disasters like the one in March," a government official told media.
"If everything goes smoothly, it will be the first radar satellite under the program," the official said. "With the radar satellite, we can introduce wider usage of the system."
Radar satellites are capable of capturing images at night and in cloudy weather. Kyodo News said that the latest satellite cost about $512 million to develop.
The launch was Japan's 14th consecutive successful lift-off. The country sent up its first pair of spy satellites in 2003 after concerns over North Korea's missile program grew.
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