Japan successfully put a spy satellite into orbit on Monday and expects to complete its network of intelligence-gathering satellites with another launch next year.
Japan’s space agency, JAXA, said the launch from the remote southern island of Tanegashima went off without a hitch and the radar-equipped satellite is functioning properly. It was the second launch of the year, following a successful liftoff in September.
Officials refused to provide details of the satellite’s capabilities.
Japanese media reports say it will augment the optical satellites Japan has already launched by providing data of what is happening on the ground at night or through cloud cover.
Japan launched its first pair of spy satellites in 2003, prompted by concerns over North Korea’s missile program. It currently has four optical information-gathering satellites in orbit, though the latest of those is not fully operational yet.
It previously launched two radar intelligence satellites, but both malfunctioned.
The satellite launched Monday is expected to begin gathering intelligence in a few months, an official with the Cabinet Satellite Information Centre told The Associated Press. He requested anonymity because details of the program are classified.
Another radar satellite launch is planned next year, the official said.
That would give Japan the combination of two optical and two radar satellites that it wants to complete its network. Tokyo is seeking to use the satellites to provide information on any given spot on the planet at least once a day.