Japan successfully put a spy satellite into orbit on Monday and
expects to complete its network of intelligence-gathering satellites
with another launch next year.
Japan's space agency, JAXA, said
the launch from the remote southern island of Tanegashima went off
without a hitch and the radar-equipped satellite is functioning
properly. It was the second launch of the year, following a successful
liftoff in September.
Officials refused to provide details of the satellite's capabilities.
media reports say it will augment the optical satellites Japan has
already launched by providing data of what is happening on the ground at
night or through cloud cover.
Japan launched its first pair of
spy satellites in 2003, prompted by concerns over North Korea's missile
program. It currently has four optical information-gathering satellites
in orbit, though the latest of those is not fully operational yet.
It previously launched two radar intelligence satellites, but both malfunctioned.