Friday, March 27, 2015

Japan Launches IGS Optical 5 Intelligence Satellite

Japan launches IGS Optical 5 intelligence satellite on Mar. 26, 2015. Credit: JAXA

A rocket blasted off successfully Thursday morning carrying a backup optical satellite for the government’s intelligence gathering program. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. launched the H-IIA rocket at 10:21 a.m. (local time) from the Tanegashima Space Center in Kagoshima Prefecture. JAXA announced separation of the mission’s satellite passenger about 21 minutes after liftoff. The H-2A rocket’s hydrogen-fueled first and second stage engines apparently functioned as designed to put the Earth-viewing satellite into orbit.

The satellite is described as an advanced ground-monitoring device. Currently, Japan has two radar satellites and two optical satellites in operation, which are able to collect images of any point on the ground at least once a day.

The latest satellite, named IGS Optical 5, will replace one of the two optical satellites, which was launched in 2009.

The device was developed at a cost of ¥32.5 billion, according to the Cabinet Satellite Intelligence Center.

The images and related information obtained by the satellite will not be publicly released as they are designated as state secrets under a law that took effect last year.

Thursday’s launch marked the 28th flight of Japan’s H-2A rocket since 2001, extending the launcher’s streak to 22 straight successes. All but one of the rocket’s flights have been successful.