High-tech Himawari-8 weather satellite launched

Kyodo

A satellite was launched Tuesday from the Tanegashima Space Center in Kagoshima Prefecture in a bid to improve the accuracy of weather forecasts related to natural disasters.

The Himawari-8 weather satellite soared aloft aboard an H-IIA rocket at 2:16 p.m. It was expected to be placed in a geostationary orbit about 35,800 km above the equator, the Meteorological Agency said.

It is the new first weather observation satellite since the launch of the Himawari-7 in February 2006. Although its predecessor is still working, the new one is a significant improvement. In normal operation it will shoot images every 10 minutes, compared with every 30 minutes for the older bird.

The Himawari-8 is also able to cover the entirety of Japan in 2½-minute intervals.

It can swiftly monitor the kind of rain clouds that form with little warning and cause torrential downpours. It will also measure the distribution of volcanic dust following eruptions like that of Mount Ontake.

It is scheduled to begin full operation around next July.

There are plans to launch a backup satellite, the Himawari-9, in fiscal 2016.