• Kyodo

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The launch of a second pair of spy satellites was called off again Saturday due to trouble with the H-IIA launch vehicle.

The launch will be rescheduled for next Thursday at the earliest, according to the National Space Development Agency of Japan.

Originally set for Sept. 10, the launch had already been put off twice, first to last Monday and then to Saturday.

The trouble Saturday occurred in the second stage of the two-stage H-IIA rocket during the final check, the space agency said. The previous two postponements were both due to technical reasons.

In Tokyo, officials at the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry said the decision to postpone was made as a precaution after irregular signals were emitted from the rocket’s position control device.

The satellites, which would have paved the way for daily photo surveillance of North Korea, were scheduled to be launched at the Tanegashima Space Center in Kagoshima Prefecture shortly after 1:30 p.m.

The first pair was launched March 28 amid domestic concerns that the move marked a major turnaround in Japan’s space development policy based on the principle of peaceful and nonmilitary use of space. North Korea blasted the launch as a “hostile act.”

Japan decided to deploy spy satellites after North Korea test-fired a Taepodong ballistic missile in 1998, part of which flew over the Japan and fell into the Pacific Ocean.

The set of four satellites is designed to monitor any point on Earth once a day. The government says they will also be used to observe large natural disasters.

One is equipped with an optical sensor reportedly capable of distinguishing objects such as cars within a resolution of 1 meter.

The other is equipped with synthetic aperture radar which allows it to see in the dark and through clouds and fog within a resolution of 1 to 3 meters.

The Cabinet Satellite Intelligence Center will operate them and is currently test-running the first pair and training officials on reading downloaded images.

NASDA is to merge Wednesday with the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science and the National Aerospace Laboratory of Japan into the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency under an administrative reform program, and Saturday’s launch would have been the last for the entity.

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