Japan Poised To Loft Surveillance Satellite

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Japan will launch a satellite in late November to replace the oldest of four surveillance craft developed in response to North Korea’s 1998 launch of a ballistic missile over Japanese territory, according to Hiroshi OE, director general for international affairs in the Japanese Defense Ministry’s bureau of defense policy.

Japan also might consider increasing the size of the so-called Information Gathering Satellite (IGS) constellation, which currently consists of two optical and two radar imaging satellites, the first of which was launched in 1999, OE said Nov. 3 at the Strategic Space Symposium. However, he said budget realities might not support such a plan.

The IGS system was hatched despite a longstanding Japanese policy directing that space be used for peaceful purposes, which OE said had been interpreted as an outright ban on military satellites. That policy was lifted last year by Japan’s parliament, or Diet.

OE said Japan also is looking at expanded military use of commercial satellite services such as communications.