Japanese Spy Sat Launch Delayed by Rocket Glitch

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The planned Aug. 28 launch of Japan’s next Information Gathering Satellite (IGS) reconnaissance satellite was delayed indefinitely due to the discovery of a fault with the communications and command data processing system onboard the satellite’s H-2A rocket, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) announced Aug. 25.

JAXA did not set a new launch date, or say how long the mission would be delayed. The rocket, built by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. of Tokyo, was poised to launch from the Tanegashima Space Center when the problem was discovered.

According to the Cabinet Satellite Intelligence Center, which is in charge of the IGS program, the problem involves the H-2A’s command destruct system. The launch is to loft the IGS Optical 4 satellite, a second-generation satellite with an optical sensor capable of resolving objects as small 60 centimeters. Japan’s reconnaissance satellite program is designed to function as a fleet of two radar and two optical satellites enabling reasonably close coverage of North Korea and other parts of East Asia.

With this latest launch Japan hopes to return to a four-satellite constellation after several mishaps, including the loss of two satellites in 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.