Japan launches new spy satellite (VIDEO)

A H-2A rocket carrying Daichi-2, an all-purpose earth-surveying satellite tasked with helping to map the planet and aiding with disaster recovery, blasts off from the launching pad at Tanegashima Space Center on the Japanese southwestern island of Tanegashima, in this photo taken by Kyodo May 24, 2014. (Reuters / Kyodo)
Japan has placed a new spy satellite into orbit, successfully conducting this year’s first launch of the H-IIA carrier rocket. The Joho Shushu Eisei (JSE) series satellite became the fifth in Tokyo’s radar and surveillance orbit group.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries joint project went into space at 10:21 a.m. local time from the Tanegashima Space Center in Kagoshima Prefecture, Kyodo news agency reports.

The JSE series of satellites, also known as Information Gathering Satellites (IGS), is operated by Japan’s Cabinet Satellite Intelligence Centre and consists of optical and radar imaging spacecraft. The exact capabilities of the satellite are kept secret by the Japanese government.

Before Sunday’s launch, four Japanese intelligence satellites were already in place – two optical satellites and two radar satellites, constructed by Mitsubishi Electric and taken into space by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.

Japan launched its first spy satellites into orbit in the early 2000s – after North Korea fired a mid-range ballistic missile over the Japanese mainland – and in 1998.

The initial launch of the fifth H-2A Launch Vehicle No. 27, was originally scheduled for Thursday, but was delayed due to bad weather. Japan plans to launch another IGS satellite in March.