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Japan launches intelligence satellite to monitor weather, North Korea

Japan successfully launched Thursday a rocket carrying a government intelligence-gathering radar satellite to improve disaster response and monitor developments at North Korean military sites.

The No. 46 H2A rocket, operated by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd., lifted off from the Tanegashima Space Center in the southwestern prefecture of Kagoshima following a one-day delay due to poor weather. The satellite entered its planned orbit, Mitsubishi Heavy said.

An H2A rocket carrying a government satellite lifts off from Tanegashima Space Center in Kagoshima Prefecture on Jan. 26, 2023. (Kyodo)

The radar satellite can capture images on the ground at night as well as at times when there are severe weather conditions. It can be used to relay data in the event of a natural disaster, according to the Cabinet Satellite Intelligence Center which tasked Mitsubishi Heavy with the launch.

The liquid-fuel H2A rocket measures 53 meters in length and has a 4-meter diameter. There have been numerous successful launches since the No. 6 H2A rocket failed in November 2003.

On Feb. 12, Mitsubishi Heavy is scheduled to launch for the first time its new flagship H3 rocket jointly developed with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. The rocket is the successor to the H2A rocket.

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