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Japan scrubs spy satellite launch

Bad weather, no new date set

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Bad weather has forced Japan to postpone the launch of a new spy satellite. Japanese space agency JAXA scrubbed the launch shortly before the rocket carrying the satellite was due to blast off from Tanegashima island.

No new date has been set for the launch, which was already postponed once this week. JAXA says it hopes it will be able to get the satellite off the ground by the end of the month.

The eye-in-the-sky is designed to help the island nation keep tabs on its cannoned-up and assuredly hostile neighbour, North Korea. Japan decided to start watching Kim Jong-Il and his countrymen after North Korea fired a ballistic missle over Japan in 1998.

Understandably rattled by the experience, Japanese authorities decided they would be better off with a couple of optical satellites and a couple of radar satellites peering into their neighbour's backyard.

The satellite, due to be launched yesterday, was to be the second of the radar observatories. Both optical satellites are already in orbit.

The Japanese government says once all four satellites are up and running, it will be able to monitor any point on Earth at any time of day, to a resolution of about one metre.

In the wake of North Korea's nuclear test last October, Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe says the country needs to seriously consider relaxing laws that restrict its use of space to peaceful purposes. He argues that the country ought to be able to use space for non-agressive military activity as well. ®

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