Japan on Sunday launched a rocket carrying two satellites, including one operated by the government, to release data collected by spy satellites already in orbit.
A photo taken from a Kyoto News helicopter on November 29, 2020 shows an H2A rocket launching a government satellite designed to relay data already collected by orbiting spy satellites at the Thane Kashima Space Center in southwestern Japan’s Kagoshima Prefecture. (Kyoto)
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The H2A rocket, powered by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, was launched from the Tanekashima Space Center in southwest Japan at 4:25 p.m.
The satellites – the government data relay satellite and Jaxa’s optical data relay satellite – entered orbit 30 minutes later.
The two satellites sit on the same unit and share basic components such as power and control systems.
“We will make full use of data gathering satellites to continue to strengthen our country’s national security and crisis management,” Prime Minister Yoshihide Suka said in a statement.
Relay satellites initially carry out experimental transmissions of data obtained by data-collecting satellites and send them back from geographical orbit via optical communication.
While in operation, they help to overcome the problem that each surveillance satellite can only receive data for a limited period of time when it has a direct line of sight with a receiver on the ground.
By sending data, including images and other information, via relay satellites, transmissions can be made more flexibly and transmitted over a longer period of time from each monitoring satellite, Jaxa said.