Japan launches optical spy satellite
Updated: 2015-03-26 10:12
TOKYO - Japan on Thursday launched an information-gathering satellite (IGS) with an optical reconnaissance payload on an H-2A rocket, the country's second launch this year.
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd.-- Japan's space agency and the commercial operator of the H-2A rocket-- launched the spy satellite aboard the H-2A Launch Vehicle No.28 at 10:21 am (0121 GMT) on Thursday from JAXA's Tanegashima Space Center in Japan's southwestern Kagoshima prefecture.
Intelligence satellites are believed to be employed to monitor ground surfaces to gain information related to national security and disasters.
Operated by Japan's Cabinet Satellite Intelligence Center, which reports directly to the government's executive leadership, the country's IGS program consists of optical and radar imaging spacecraft.
Thursday's launch carried the 14th spacecraft in Japan IGS series.
Japan launched a prototype third-generation optical IGS spacecraft in 2013, the operational version of which made debut with Thursday's launch. Thursday's launch carried the first third- generation spacecraft for the series, Optical 5, which will obtain high-resolution images with a telescopic optical camera.
Earlier, Japan launched a radar sensor information-gathering satellite on Feb 1, which is equipped with a radar spy instrument capable of peering through clouds, darkness and camouflage to obtain high-resolution imagery of Earth's surface.
Information obtained and images captured by the satellites are subject to a law enacted last year to enable the Japanese government to designate information it deems sensitive as state secrets, according to local media.