Japan: Japan launched a radar reconnaissance satellite into orbit to boost its intelligence-gathering capacity. It was the second launch for the year, following a successful liftoff in September. The satellite carries a synthetic aperture radar instrument designed to see through clouds and take pictures of the Earth even at nighttime.
According to media reports, the development of the new radar satellite cost 39.8 billion yen, or about USD 512 million, while the launch cost USD 132 million.
Japan launched its first pair of spy satellites in 2003, prompted by concerns over North Korea’s missile program. Since then Japan’s spy satellites have become more advance, with the government using the data to keep track of North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs, together with other military movements worldwide.
Japanese space agency officials said the next H-2A launch is scheduled for the spring of 2012 with a Japanese climate satellite and a South Korean remote sensing craft.