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Japan to launch intelligence-gathering satellite on Sun. after delay

An H-2A rocket carrying an intelligence-gathering satellite successfully takes off from the Tanegashima Space Center in Kagoshima Pref., southwestern Japan, on Feb. 27, 2018. (Kyodo)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japan has earmarked Sunday as the new launch date for an H2A rocket carrying a government optical intelligence-gathering satellite after the previous launch attempt was scrubbed due to a glitch during the countdown, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. said Thursday.

    The H2A rocket is scheduled to lift off on Sunday morning from the Tanegashima Space Center in Kagoshima Prefecture, southwestern Japan. The launch, previously set for Jan. 28, was pushed back due to the discovery during preparations for liftoff of a leak in the piping supplying the rocket with nitrogen gas.

    Mitsubishi Heavy, which is in charge of the launch, attributed the leak to pipe corrosion and said it has completed the necessary repairs and inspections.

    Aboard the rocket is a satellite that is expected to take over from one of seven other reconnaissance satellites believed to be monitoring developments at North Korean missile sites, among other purposes.

    Japan operates two types of reconnaissance satellite -- optical satellites that take photos of the ground using a device similar to a digital camera, and radar satellites that can be used to capture images in the evening as well as in poor weather conditions.

    The government currently operates five radar and two optical satellites, and aims to utilize a total of 10 satellites in the future.

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