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Japan yesterday successfully launched a military surveillance satellite, dubbed the Information Gathering Satellite Radar 5 (IGS Radar-5).
Japan started the IGS program in 1998, presumably in response to North Korean missile tests around that time that sent missiles close to, or flying over, Japan.
In the years since, North Korea has repeatedly threatened to annihilate Japan (and South Korea and the United States), and continued to develop its nuclear-weapon and missile programs. The IGS satellites keep tabs on such efforts, help the Japanese government respond to natural disasters and perform several other functions, experts believe.
The first IGS craft lifted off in 2003. IGS Radar 5 is the 15th one in the program to take flight, though not all have made it to orbit. Two were lost to a launch failure in November 2003.