Spaceflight Now Home





Mission Reports




For 12 years, Spaceflight Now has been providing unrivaled coverage of U.S. space launches. Comprehensive reports and voluminous amounts of video are available in our archives.
Space Shuttle
Atlas | Delta | Pegasus
Minotaur | Taurus | Falcon
Titan



NewsAlert



Sign up for our NewsAlert service and have the latest space news e-mailed direct to your desktop.

Enter your e-mail address:

Privacy note: your e-mail address will not be used for any other purpose.



Advertisement






Space Books






Reconnaissance satellites launched by H-2A rocket
BY STEPHEN CLARK
SPACEFLIGHT NOW

Posted: January 27, 2013


Japan launched two spy satellites Sunday to collect sharp imagery for the government's defense and intelligence agencies, continuing a series of clandestine space missions devised to keep track of North Korean military activity.


File photo of an H-2A rocket launch. Credit: JAXA
 
The payloads lifted off on a Japanese H-2A rocket at 0440 GMT (11:40 p.m. EST) from the Tanegashima Space Center, Japan's primary launch site nestled on a picturesque island in the Pacific Ocean.

Liftoff occurred at 1:40 p.m. local time in Japan, and the rocket pitched southeast from Tanegashima before turning south for its ascent to orbit over the Pacific Ocean.

The 187-foot-tall launcher soared into an overcast sky on the power of its two solid rocket boosters and a hydrogen-fueled main engine, rapidly vanishing into clouds and leaving a billowing exhaust plume and booming noise in its wake.

The launch was streamed live online by amateur observers, but there was no official webcast provided by the Japanese government or Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, the H-2A rocket's commercial operator.

The H-2A rocket surpassed the speed of sound in less than a minute, and 1.6 million pounds of thrust pushed the orange and white launcher higher over the Pacific Ocean.

The solid-fueled boosters jettisoned about two minutes after liftoff, and the rocket's nose fairing released as the H-2A rocket reached the thin upper atmosphere.

The rocket's cryogenic upper stage took over next, igniting to put the mission's two secretive payloads into orbit.

The launch marked the 22nd flight of an H-2A rocket and the eighth launch dedicated to Japan's spy satellite program.

Japanese officials declared the launch a success about 20 minutes after liftoff.

Two payloads were aboard the H-2A rocket, the country's fourth radar reconnaissance satellite and a demonstration craft with an optical camera, according to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, which owns the Tanegashima Space Center.

The Japanese government calls the spacecraft Information Gathering Satellites.

The radar-equipped satellite can take pictures of the ground day-and-night and in all weather conditions.

Japan has not disclosed the exact capabilities of the satellites, including their imaging resolution.

The most advanced Japanese reconnaissance satellites likely provide imagery with a resolution less than a meter. The optical demonstration craft launched Sunday may provide imagery with a resolution as high as 40 centimeters, or about 15 inches, better than U.S. commercial imaging satellites, according to the Kyodo news agency.

Japan established the space-based reconnaissance program in the wake of a North Korean missile test over Japanese territory in 1998. Although the program was initially aimed at monitoring North Korea, the satellites can take pictures of nearly any place on Earth each day.

The first Information Gathering Satellites were launched in 2003.

Japanese officials used imagery from the IGS program in the aftermath of the March 2011 earthquake that spawned a devastating tsunami and the following crisis at the Fukushima nuclear power plant.

Sunday's mission marked the first space launch of the year for Japan, which plans at least three more launches in 2013.

In July, Japan will launch its fourth robotic cargo craft to the International Space Station aboard the heavy-lift H-2B rocket. In the autumn, Japan plans the first flight of its smaller solid-fueled Epsilon satellite launcher from the Uchinoura Space Center on the south shore of Kyushu, the southernmost of Japan's main islands.

Before the end of 2013, another H-2A rocket will deploy JAXA's second Advanced Land Observing Satellite, which will collect environmental data for climate science and disaster response applications.

John Glenn Mission Patch

Free shipping to U.S. addresses!

The historic first orbital flight by an American is marked by this commemorative patch for John Glenn and Friendship 7.
 U.S. STORE
 WORLDWIDE STORE

Final Shuttle Mission Patch

Free shipping to U.S. addresses!

The crew emblem for the final space shuttle mission is available in our store. Get this piece of history!
 U.S. STORE
 WORLDWIDE STORE

Celebrate the shuttle program

Free shipping to U.S. addresses!

This special commemorative patch marks the retirement of NASA's Space Shuttle Program. Available in our store!
 U.S. STORE
 WORLDWIDE STORE

Anniversary Shuttle Patch

Free shipping to U.S. addresses!

This embroidered patch commemorates the 30th anniversary of the Space Shuttle Program. The design features the space shuttle Columbia's historic maiden flight of April 12, 1981.
 U.S. STORE
 WORLDWIDE STORE

Mercury anniversary

Free shipping to U.S. addresses!


Celebrate the 50th anniversary of Alan Shephard's historic Mercury mission with this collectors' item, the official commemorative embroidered patch.
 U.S. STORE
 WORLDWIDE STORE

Fallen Heroes Patch Collection
The official patches from Apollo 1, the shuttle Challenger and Columbia crews are available in the store.
 U.S. STORE
 WORLDWIDE STORE

INDEX | PLUS | NEWS ARCHIVE | LAUNCH SCHEDULE
ASTRONOMY NOW | STORE

ADVERTISE

© 2014 Spaceflight Now Inc.