Spaceflight Insider

H-IIA takes to the skies with Japan’s IGS-Radar 6 spy satellite

An HII-A rocket carrying GCOM-C1 and SLATS satellites launches from Tanegashima Space Center on December 23

An HII-A rocket carrying GCOM-C1 and SLATS satellites launches from Tanegashima Space Center on December 23. Photo Credit: Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd./JAXA

An H-IIA rocket took to the skies on June 12, on a classified mission to deliver the IGS-Radar 6 (Information Gathering Satellite) reconnaissance satellite for Japan’s Cabinet Satellite Intelligence Centre. noted that the rocket lifted off at 13:20 local time / 04:20 GMT (Japan Standard Time is nine hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time) from the Yoshinobu Launch Complex at the Tanegashima Space Center.

The mission had been scheduled to get underway on June 11, however predictions of poor weather conditions forced launch officials to delay liftoff by 24 hours. There were fears that Tropical Storm Maliksi that was passing over the Pacific Ocean, some 200 miles (322 kilometers) east of the coast of Japan – could have impact on launch activities.

The timeline of the flight was classified. However, the nominal flight plan of a typical H-IIA rockets suggests that the rocket completed a brief vertical ascent after which it started heading south over the Pacific Ocean. Its two SRB-A boosters accompanied the launch vehicle until they burned out within two minutes into the flight.

The whole flight, from liftoff to the separation of the payload, probably lasted some 20-30 minutes as the satellite was planned to be injected, reportedly, into a Sun-synchronous orbit (SSO). IGS-Radar spacecraft usually operate from SSO at an altitude of approximately 310 miles (500-kilometers), inclined 97.4 degrees.

Japan has also not disclosed any information about the physical parameters of the IGS-Radar 6 spacecraft as well as about its equipment. What is known is that the satellite was manufactured by Mitsubishi Electric Corporation (MELCO) and belongs to the third generation of optical imaging satellites for the IGS program. In general, IGS satellites are equipped with an optical reconnaissance payload or a Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) for remote sensing.

IGS-Radar 6 is planned to be operated by the Cabinet Satellite Intelligence Center for a period of at least five years. Besides serving the country’s defense needs, it should also be used for civil natural disaster monitoring purposes.

IGS program was created as a response to a 1998 North Korean missile test, which saw a Taepodong-1 medium-range ballistic missile launched over Japan and showcased the rogue nation’s ability to potentially strike anywhere on the archipelago. The main goal of the project is to provide an early warning of impending hostile launches in the region.

In 2003, the first two spacecraft of the program were launched: IGS-Optical 1 and IGS-Radar 1. To date, 14 IGS satellites have been successfully sent to orbit. One pair was lost in November 2003 due to an H-IIA launch failure (all were launched by H-IIA rockets) after lifting off from the Tanegashima Space Center.

The previous IGS satellite – IGS-Optical 6 – was launched on February 27, 2018.

H-IIA is a 174-foot (53-meter) tall two-stage launch system that is operated by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) for the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). With a mass of about 285 metric tons, the “202” variant that was employed for Tuesday’s flight is capable of sending up to 10 metric tons to low-Earth orbit and 4.1 metric tons to a geostationary transfer orbit. The rocket’s maiden flight took place in August of 2001. Since then, it has flown 37 times with only a single failure.

Video courtesy of Sky News





Tomasz Nowakowski is the owner of Astro Watch, one of the premier astronomy and science-related blogs on the internet. Nowakowski reached out to SpaceFlight Insider in an effort to have the two space-related websites collaborate. Nowakowski's generous offer was gratefully received with the two organizations now working to better relay important developments as they pertain to space exploration.

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