• Kyodo

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Japan has put a new spy satellite into orbit that is expected to help the government capture images of North Korean missile sites.

The spy satellite was lofted into orbit by an H-IIA rocket launched at 10:34 a.m. Sunday from Tanegashima Space Center in Kagoshima Prefecture. The satellite entered orbit about 20 minutes later.

The satellite, which cost ¥34.3 billion to develop, is equipped with a super-telephoto digital camera.

The rocket was launched by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).

The launch, which cost ¥11 billion, was previously set for Jan. 28 but was delayed by a leaky nitrogen pipe.

The spy satellite will take over for one of seven other reconnaissance satellites believed to be monitoring North Korean missile and other developments.

Japan operates two types of reconnaissance satellites — optical satellites that take photos with a device similar to digital cameras, and radar satellites that can capture images in both dark and poor weather conditions.

The government currently has five radar and two optical satellites in operation and plans to raise the total to 10.

The successful launch, the 35th in a row, raised the H-IIA’s success rate to 97.5 percent. If the H-IIB variant is included, it was the 45th successful launch in a row.

“We will maximize the use of the satellite and make our best to ensure the security and crisis management of our country,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in a statement.

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