Japan postpones launch of third satellite due to bad weather

14 Sep 2006

Japan postponed the launch of its third intelligence-gathering satellite due to bad weather, the nation's space agency JAXA said.

The launch of the satellite, originally scheduled for Sunday afternoon on the domestically developed H2-A rocket, will now take place this week from the TanegashimaSpaceCenter in southern Japan, JAXA said in a statement.

Japan already has two other intelligence-gathering satellites in orbit under a program prompted by North Korea's test launch of a long-range missile that flew over Japan's main island in 1998. JAXA plans to launch a fourth next winter.

Under the program, overseen by the Cabinet, Japan hopes to be able to survey any point in the world, and keep a watch on North Korea.

The upcoming launch comes after North Korea carried out a series of missile tests in July that triggered international condemnation and concerns about regional security.

But government officials have said that the recent activity in North Korea has not influenced the timing of the launch.

Officials say the satellites are not meant to be a provocation and will also be used for other missions such as monitoring natural disasters and weather patterns.

But critics say sending up the satellites goes against Japan's long-standing policy of conducting only nonmilitary space missions.

The multibillion dollar program suffered a major setback in November 2003, when a rocket carrying two spy satellites malfunctioned and was destroyed in mid-flight.

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