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In an unpublicized launch lacking fanfare, an H-2A rocket successfully boosted Japan's most advanced spy satellite to orbit on Saturday from the country's island space center.
The 174-foot-tall launcher lifted off at 0121 GMT Saturday (8:21 p.m. EST Friday) from Launch Pad No. 1 at the Yoshinobu complex on the southern shore of Tanegashima Island. The rocket's launch occurred at 10:21 a.m. local time.
The supposed payload was a more than $500 million satellite outfitted with an optical camera and telescope to supply imagery to the Japanese government for intelligence, defense and civilian remote sensing applications. The spacecraft will become the fifth operational member of Japan's spy satellite fleet.
Japan established the space-based reconnaissance program after North Korea fired a test missile over Japanese territory in 1998. The country's spy satellites have become increasingly more advanced since then, but officials have provided no official specifications on the satellite launched Saturday.
Another North Korean missile test over Japan in April prompted further consideration of an early warning satellite with an infrared sensor dedicated to detecting missile launches.