Friday afternoon’s launch was the 13th consecutive successful launch from Japan’s H2A rocket, giving it a success rate of 94.7%, within reach of the 95% mark generally regarded as being the standard for a vehicle launcher’s record to be reliable.
The satellite launched Friday was a replacement for a similar type of orbiter launched in September 2006. It is equipped with a high-precision telescope capable of identifying objects on earth that are as small as 60 centimeters (24 inches). The telescope has specifications identical to another satellite launched in November 2009. It will run on a trial basis for a few months before being moved into full operation.
The satellite, technically referred to as an information collection satellite, was originally planned for launch on Aug. 28, but lift-off was delayed three times for reasons including faulty equipment and a typhoon.
It cost taxpayers 45.1 billion yen ($587 million) to put the satellite into space. Combined with existing satellites, Japan will be able to take high-precision images of any place on earth once a day.
Japan began putting spy satellites – it calls them Information Gathering Satellites (IGS) — into orbit after North Korea launched a Taepodong ballistic missile over Japan in 1998.