Japan has launched a new spy satellite, the country’s space agency said, as the region grows increasingly uneasy over North Korea’s growing missile and nuclear programs.
The Radar 5 unit was carried into space on Japan’s mainstay H-IIA rocket from a launch site in the country’s southwest. This satellite is meant to replace an existing one that is approaching the end of its mission. Japan started placing spy satellites into orbit in 2003 after North Korea fired a mid-range ballistic missile over the Japanese mainland and into the Western Pacific in 1998.
The launch threats from North Korea have steadily accelerated and Pyongyang recently fired four ballistic missiles, with three landing in waters provocatively close to Japan. Tokyo currently maintains three optical satellites for daytime surveillance and three radar satellites for nighttime monitoring. Two of those are backups. The new satellite will succeed one of the three radar satellites that was launched in 2011.
The satellites are officially for “information gathering”—a euphemism for spying—but are also used to monitor damage in the wake of natural disasters.
Article sourced from The Japan Times.