Japan Launches 2 Satellites into Orbit to Gather Intelligence

Japan launched two intelligence satellites into orbit on Sunday amid growing concerns that North Korea is planning to test more rockets of its own and possibly conduct a nuclear test.

Officials say the launch Sunday of the domestically produced HII-A rocket went smoothly and the satellites — an operational radar satellite and an experimental optical probe — appear to have reached orbit.

Japan began its intelligence satellite program after North Korea fired a long-range missile over Japan’s main island in 1998. North Korea conducted a launch last month that it says carried a satellite into orbit but has been condemned by the U.S. and others as a cover for its development of missile technology.

The latest Japanese launch was in the planning stages long before the current increase in tensions with North Korea, but underscores Japan’s longstanding wariness of its isolated neighbor’s abilities and intentions.

The radar satellite, which can provide intelligence through cloud cover and at night, is intended to augment a network of several probes that Japan already has in orbit. The optical probe will be used to test future technology and improvements that would allow Japan to strengthen its surveillance capabilities.

Read the rest of the story: Japan launches 2 intelligence satellites – Yahoo! News.


NEC to build low-cost satellites for developing nations with new factory

Japan’s NEC Corp. has revealed plans to invest 10 billion yen (approx. $114.5 million) to build a new factory in Tokyo that will produce space satellites at a low-cost for emerging nations. Sources say the technology company is looking to begin manufacturing in fiscal 2014, which begins in April of that year.

The plan is for the factory, to be built in the suburb of Fuchu as part of a joint effort with the central government, to help Japan win contracts from other countries that are looking to build and launch their own satellites. While the 10 billion yen figure is seen as relatively competitive on the global scale for building a commercial satellite factory, NEC has already been successful in lowering the costs of producing small satellites and related equipment to prices between 6 billion yen and 8 billion yen (from $68.7 million to $91.6 million).

Japanese engineering company IHI Corp. has developed a 3 billion yen ($34.4 million) rocket that can carry a small satellite into space, and when combined with NEC’s product, provides Japan with competitive pricing. While North Korea claims its long-range missile launch last month was successful in putting a scientific satellite into orbit, the international community still has doubt about what really made it into space and if it actually functions.