JAXA has successfully launched and deployed the IGS Optical 6 reconnaissance satellite into orbit aboard an H-2A launch vehicle. With the addition of this latest spy satellite, Japan’s network of reconnaissance satellites includes 7 spacecraft carrying a mix of optical and radar reconnaissance payloads.
The H-2A rocket lifted off from the Tanegashima Space Center at 04:34 on February 27. The launch comes nearly a year since the last of Japan’s reconnaissance satellites was launched, the IGS Radar 5 and just over a year since the last optical reconnaissance satellite, the IGS Optical 5.
Japan’s reconnaissance satellite program was formed in response to a North Korean missile test over Japanese territory in 1998. Five years later, Japan launched the first two satellites in aid of the program, IGS 1A, and 1B. Both of these first generation reconnaissance satellites have since been retired. In addition to the 7 operational reconnaissance satellites currently operational, Japan aims to launch an additional three in the coming years.
Today’s launch is JAXA’s second of the month of February. The first saw the country launch the smallest rocket to ever reach orbit, the SS-520-5. The rocket is part of an experimental small-payload launch programme with no plans to offer its services to commercial customers.
Image Credit: JAXA