Japan Launches Internet Satellite

A H-2A lifts off from its launch pad on the island of Tanagashima on Saturday February 23, 2008. Japan's space agency said Saturday it launched a communications satellite designed to enable super high-speed data transmission. The H-2A rocket carrying the satellite lifted off from the southern island of Tanegashima at 5:55 p.m. (0855 GMT), according to a live Internet broadcast by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. (AP Photo/Kyodo News) ** JAPAN OUT MANDATORY CREDIT, FOR COMMERCIAL USE ONLY IN NORTH AMERICA **
AP Photo/Kyodo News
Japan's space agency launched an experimental communications satellite Saturday designed to enable super high-speed data transmission at home and in Southeast Asia.

The domestically developed H-2A rocket carrying the satellite, "Kizuna," was launched Saturday evening from the southern island of Tanegashima, according to a live Internet broadcast by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, known as JAXA.

Liftoff was delayed by 90 minutes due to strong winds and because a ship entered restricted waters near the space center. The launch had already been postponed by a week due to a mechanical glitch.

The satellite, equipped with two large multi-beam antennas, separated from the rocket and successfully entered its intended orbit 175 miles from Earth, JAXA said in a statement. It will be moved to its stationary orbit in about 20 days.

The agency said with Kizuna it hoped to enable data transmission of up to 1.2 gigabytes per second at a low cost across Japan and in 19 different places in Southeast Asia. JAXA developed Kizuna with another government agency, the National Institute of Information and Communication Technology, and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd.

About 100 experiments will be conducted through the satellite, including a test broadcast of the next generation of high-definition television.

The total cost of the development, launch and operation of the satellite is estimated at 52 billion yen ($480 million), JAXA spokeswoman Asaka Hagiwara said.

Japan has yet to join the lucrative international satellite market, and Kizuna - which should be in operation for five years - is not intended for commercial use.

Its large H-2A rocket is one of the most advanced and reliable in the world - Saturday's was its eighth straight successful launch - though critics say more cost-cutting efforts are needed to achieve a profitable business.

Japan launched its first satellite in 1970 and has achieved several major scientific coups in space - including launching a probe that collected samples from an asteroid.

Japan is racing to catch up with regional rival China, which has put astronauts in space twice since 2003 and was the third country to send a human into orbit after Russia and the United States. Japan has since announced plans to send its first astronauts into space and set up a base on the moon by 2025.

In February 2007, the agency launched its fourth intelligence-gathering satellite amid concerns over neighboring North Korea's nuclear weapons and missile programs.