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Japanese Spy Satellite Suffers Critical Power Failure

File image of a current Japanese series recon satellite.
by Staff Writers
Tokyo (AFP) March 27, 2007
A Japanese spy satellite has stopped working due to an electrical problem, potentially impairing Tokyo's ability to peer anywhere in the world, officials said Tuesday.

Officials said they were having difficulty repairing the satellite, which malfunctioned just a month after Japan completed sending its full set of four spy satellites into space.

The radar satellite, which was put into orbit four years ago, had not been operational since Sunday due to a problem related to its battery system, said an official with the Cabinet Satellite Intelligence Centre.

Japan has four spy satellites in orbit -- two are radar and the other pair are optical satellites. Each pair gives Tokyo the ability to spy anywhere on Earth, at least once a day.

The satellites were launched as Japan tries to step up information gathering on North Korea, which fired a missile over Japan's main island in 1998 and tested an atom bomb last year.

"If the radar satellite does not come back on again, there might be areas where we might not be able to conduct radar monitoring everyday," the Cabinet Office official said, without elaborating on technical details.

Japanese engineers have been working since Sunday to repair the problem, he said.

"What we have learned so far is that the problem is very difficult to solve," he said.

"We believe it has to do with the wear and tear of being put to use for four years."

Japan is still developing its next radar satellite, which will be brought into orbit in 2011, the official said.

Japan faced an embarrassing failure in November 2003, when it had to destroy a rocket carrying a spy satellite 10 minutes after lift-off because a rocket booster failed to separate.

Japan has been expanding its space operations and has set a goal of sending an astronaut to the moon by 2020.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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