• Kyodo

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Japan launched a rocket Sunday carrying satellites designed to relay data collected by other reconnaissance satellites already in orbit, enabling faster and more information-rich communication when responding to natural disasters.

The H2A rocket, operated by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, lifted off from the Tanegashima Space Center in Kagoshima Prefecture at 4:25 p.m. The two satellites sit in the same unit and will share fundamental components such as power source and control systems.

A government data-relay satellite and a JAXA optical data-relay satellite entered their intended orbit around 30 minutes later.

"We will fully utilize the information-gathering satellites to continue to strengthen our country's national security and crisis management," Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said in a statement.

The relay satellite will initially conduct tests on transmissions of data acquired by the fleet of information-gathering satellites, sending the information back from its geostationary orbit by optical communication.

When in operation, it will help overcome a problem whereby data can only be received for a limited time when each observation satellite has a direct sight-line with a receiver on the ground.

By sending data, including images and other information, via the relay satellite, transmissions can be made more flexibly and can be conducted for a longer period of time for each observation satellite, JAXA said.

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