JAXA Launches Mitsubishi’s H-2A Carrying Japanese Military Satellite

Image courtesy of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.

At approximately 9.20 a.m. today, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) launched its Mitsubishi H-2A rocket from the Tanegashima launchpad, carrying a Japanese military satellite, IGS Radar-5 into orbit.

The launch, which was a success, had been delayed by 24 hours because of weather conditions.

Japan has been very secretive about this mission, sharing no details other than that it is for military surveillance. JAXA did not provide live coverage of the launch, although there is a live Youtube stream from an independent media company. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XUbARjJfgvI

The IGS (Intelligence Gathering Satellite) is a series of satellites for reconnaissance activities which, most analysts speculate, are meant to monitor North Korea’s activities and come under the direct purview of the Japanese cabinet.

The IGS Radar-5, launched today, is Japan’s sixth IGS in orbit today, with the IGS-1A (now retired) having been launched on 28 March 2003. The IGS series is comprises two types of satellites – optical satellites and Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) ones.

This is Japan’s second military satellite launch this year, pointing towards an increase in the government’s military activities. The first, launched on 24 January 2017 also by the H2-A, carried the Kirameki 2, a geostationary communications satellite to be used for military communications.

Although the launch has been planned for some time, it comes amidst rising tensions in East Asia and the South China Sea, with North Korea having conducted ballistic missile tests just a few days ago, and with the upcoming Malabar Joint Naval Exercise between the USA, Japan and India this summer.

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