November 23, 2020

Japan launches its 2nd spy satellite this year

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An H-2A rocket carrying a radar satellite lifts off from the Tanegashima Space Center in Tanegashima, Kagoshima Prefecture, southwestern Japan, Monday morning, Dec. 12, 2011. Japan has successfully launched the intelligence-gathering satellite, its second this year. (AP Photo/Kyodo News) JAPAN OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT, NO LICENSING IN CHINA, FRANCE, HONG KONG, JAPAN AND SOUTH KOREA

TOKYO (AP) — Japan successfully put a spy satellite into orbit on Monday and expects to complete its network of intelligence-gathering satellites with another launch next year.

Japan’s space agency, JAXA, said the launch from the remote southern island of Tanegashima went off without a hitch and the radar-equipped satellite is functioning properly. It was the second launch of the year, following a successful liftoff in September.

Officials refused to provide details of the satellite’s capabilities.

Japanese media reports say it will augment the optical satellites Japan has already launched by providing data of what is happening on the ground at night or through cloud cover.

Japan launched its first pair of spy satellites in 2003, prompted by concerns over North Korea’s missile program. It currently has four optical information-gathering satellites in orbit, though the latest of those is not fully operational yet.

It previously launched two radar intelligence satellites, but both malfunctioned.

The satellite launched Monday is expected to begin gathering intelligence in a few months, an official with the Cabinet Satellite Information Center told The Associated Press. He requested anonymity because details of the program are classified.

Another radar satellite launch is planned next year, the official said.

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