Japan Clears H-2A Rocket for Sept. 17 Spy Sat Launch

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Japan has rescheduled launch of its Information Gathering Satellite (IGS) optical-imaging spacecraft for Sept. 17 aboard an H-2A rocket, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and the rocket’s builder, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, announced Sept. 8.

Originally scheduled for Aug. 28, the launch was delayed following the discovery of a fault with the communications-and-command data processing system onboard the H-2A rocket.

The Space Activities Commission signed off on the new launch date Sept. 7. Liftoff from Japan’s Tanegashima Space Center is slated to occur between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. local time.

The primary payload, IGS Optical 4 satellite, is a second-generation satellite capable of resolving images as small as 60 centimeters across. Japan’s reconnaissance satellite program is designed to function as a fleet of two radar and two optical satellites enabling reasonably close coverage of East Asia in general and North Korea in particular.

Japan is counting on the launch to return IGS to its full four-satellite strength. The constellation has been hobbled by a series of setbacks, including the loss of two satellites to a launch mishap in 2003, and the early failure of two more satellites in orbit. IGS satellites are built by Mitsubishi Electric Corp. of Tokyo at the company’s Kamakura factory.