Japan Plans To Launch Optical Spy Sat in August

by

Japan will launch its next Information Gathering Satellite (IGS) Aug. 28 from the Tanegashima Space Center aboard the country’s mainstay H-2A rocket, according to a Cabinet Satellite Intelligence Center official.

The satellite, IGS Optical 4, will be a second-generation reconnaissance satellite of the same design and capability as IGS Optical 3, which launched in November 2009. While the Japanese government refuses to comment on the capabilities of the IGS satellites, previous statements have indicated that second-generation IGS optical sensor satellites are capable of resolving objects slightly over half a meter in diameter.

The Cabinet Satellite Intelligence Center is part of the Prime Minister’s Cabinet Office, which manages the IGS fleet. The fleet was developed to keep an eye on Japan’s neighbors, particularly North Korea. IGS satellites are built by Mitsubishi Electric Corp. of Tokyo at the company’s Kamakura factory.

Japan’s IGS constellation 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.

But two on-orbit failures have left the IGS system with no radar capability. The first satellite failed in March 2007, four years into its five-year mission. The other radar satellite failed last August, only half way through its five-year mission.

Two new radar satellites are planned for launch, the first in March 2012 and the second in March 2013, the official said.