Japan launches new back-up spy satellite

A H-IIA rocket, carrying a backup radar satellite for intelligence gathering by the government, lifts off from the launching pad at Tanegashima Space Center on the Japanese southwestern island of Tanegashima, in this photo taken by Kyodo on Feb 1, 20
A H-IIA rocket, carrying a backup radar satellite for intelligence gathering by the government, lifts off from the launching pad at Tanegashima Space Center on the Japanese southwestern island of Tanegashima, in this photo taken by Kyodo on Feb 1, 2015. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO (AFP) - Japan on Sunday successfully launched a back-up spy satellite, its aerospace agency said, after cancelling an earlier lift-off due to bad weather.

Tokyo put spy satellites into operation in the early 2000s after its erratic neighbour North Korea fired a mid-range ballistic missile over the Japanese mainland and into the western Pacific in 1998.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries delayed Thursday's planned launch of the H-2A rocket from Tanegashima Space Center in southwestern Japan, due to the possibility of lightning during lift-off.

The launch at 10.21am on Sunday was successful, JAXA and Mitsubishi Heavy said, adding: "We confirmed the rocket launched normally."

Four Japanese intelligence satellites are currently in orbit - two optical satellites and two radar satellites. The backup satellite will supplement the two radar satellites, a government official said earlier.