Japan to launch radar, optical satellites Sunday

Kyodo

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. said Friday they will launch an information-gathering radar satellite and an optical satellite, using an H-IIA rocket, this weekend.

The liftoff is slated for between 1:40 and 1:53 p.m. Sunday from JAXA’s Tanegashima Space Center on Tanegashima Island in Kagoshima Prefecture.

The radar satellite is capable of detecting objects on the ground even at night and through cloud cover, while the optical satellite is designed to demonstrate higher resolution shooting technology.

The demonstration optical satellite is said to have the capability of distinguishing objects on the ground as small as about 40 cm, like U.S. commercial satellites.

Japan now has a radar satellite and three optical satellites in operation. With the planned launch Sunday, Japan aims to expand its satellite network so that any specific point on the ground can be shot at least once a day.

Japan began launching information-gathering radar satellites in 2003 after North Korea fired a ballistic missile in 1998, part of which flew over the Japanese archipelago before falling into the Pacific Ocean.

But the project has not gone smoothly due to launch failures and satellite glitches.