H-2A Rocket Lofts Japanese Reconnaissance Satellite

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Japan’s H-2A rocket successfully launched Nov. 28 a reconnaissance satellite with greatly improved resolution over its predecessors.

The satellite, called the Information Gathering Satellite (IGS) Optical-3, is designed to be capable of resolving objects as small as 60 centimeters across, an improvement over the 1-meter resolution offered by its predecessors. The 48.7 billion yen ($562 million) satellite is part of a system of four satellites, two optical and two radar satellites, which fly in low Earth orbit to provide intelligence on North Korea.

Japan plans to launch a new radar satellite and another optical satellite in 2011, followed in 2012 by another radar satellite, according to the Cabinet Satellite Intelligence Center, which runs the IGS network. Looking further out, another optical satellite is planned for 2014 with a design specification similar to Dulles, Va.-based GeoEye’s GeoEye-1 satellite, an official at the center, who declined to be named, said Dec. 1. The GeoEye-1 satellite, launched in 2008, has a ground resolution of 41 centimeters in black-and-white.