On January 27, Japan launched a rocket into orbit with a pair of new surveillance satellites onboard. The goal of the launch was to strengthen the surveillance capability of Japan and allow the country to keep an eye on North Korea. Tensions between Japan and North Korea are high after North Korea promised to conduct another nuclear test.
One of the satellites onboard the H-IIA rocket that launched from Tanegashima Space Center on Japan's southern island of Kyushu is radar equipped. That particular satellite will complete a system of surveillance satellites in orbit allowing Japan the capability of monitoring any location on earth at least one time per day. The liftoff occurred at around 1:40 PM and the satellites were released as planned.
The radar-equipped satellite will orbit at an altitude of several hundred kilometers above the surface of the Earth. At that altitude, the satellite will be able to detect objects on the ground as small as one square meter. The satellite is also able to image small items on the ground at night and through cloud cover.
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency says that the radar-equipped satellite will be used for information gathering. The information gathering will include gathering information to follow up the major 2011 earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan. The ability to spy on North Korea was not specifically mentioned by Japanese officials.
[via Defense News]