Tokyo: Japan launched a new spy satellite into orbit on Friday, officials said, in its latest effort to beef up surveillance against the threat of North Korean missiles.
The Japanese H-2A rocket carrying a new information-gathering optical satellite lifted off at 1:36 pm (0436 GMT) from the Tanegashima Space Center in southwestern Japan.
"The rocket was launched successfully and the satellite was separated into an orbit around the earth later," Naoki Takarada, an official of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), said by telephone from Tanegashima.
It was Japan`s latest effort to build an intelligence-gathering system following North Korea`s missile launch in 1998 over the Japanese archipelago.
In defiance of international pressure, North Korea launched again what was believed to be a three-stage Taepodong-2 missile in April 2009, with an estimated range of 6,700 kilometres (4,100 miles).
Japan currently has three information-gathering satellites in orbit and the latest satellite will replace one of them which has passed its use-by date.
The three are all optical satellites, which can capture images in daylight and in clear weather.
In the next two years, Japan plans to launch two radar satellites, which can capture images at night and in cloudy weather.
The development cost of the fourth satellite has reached JPY 36 billion (USD 470 million) with its launch expenses amounting to JPY 10 billion, according to the government.
The rocket had been initially scheduled to be sent into orbit on August 28.
But the state-run JAXA and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries had to postpone the launch three times due to poor weather conditions with the approach of a powerful typhoon and the discovery of a system glitch.