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Japan puts pair of new satellites into orbit

Kyodo, AP

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. on Sunday successfully launched a radar satellite and an optical satellite using an H-IIA rocket.

The rocket lifted off at 1:40 p.m. from JAXA’s Tanegashima Space Center on Tanegashima Island in Kagoshima Prefecture, and put the satellites into orbit, the agency said.

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

The optical satellite is reportedly able to distinguish objects on the ground as small as about 40 cm, like U.S. commercial satellites.

Japan now has one radar satellite and three optical satellites in operation. Japan is trying to expand its satellite network so that any specific point on the ground can be viewed at least once a day.

Japan began the intelligence satellite program after North Korea fired a long-range missile over Honshu in 1998.

North Korea also conducted a rocket launch last month that put a small satellite into orbit, but the launch was condemned by the United States and others as a disguised ballistic missile test.