Japan Launches High-Speed Communications Satellite Atop Rocket

Japan's space agency said Saturday it launched a communications satellite designed to enable super high-speed data transmission.

A domestically developed H-2A rocket carrying the satellite, "Kizuna," 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, or JAXA.

The initial liftoff was successful despite a one-and-a-half hour delay due to strong winds and an unexpected ship entry in restricted waters near the space center.

Click here for video of the launch.

Kizuna, developed by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd. and JAXA, is designed to enable super high-speed communications of up to 1.2 gigabit-per-second to allow low-cost, easy access to information across Japan and in other parts of the Asia-Pacific region.

The satellite, equipped with two large multi-beam antennas, one for Japan and vicinity, the other for Southeast Asia, was expected to be separated from the rocket about 28 minutes after the liftoff, when it reaches a height of 175 miles.

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Large-volume and high-speed communications through the Kizuna satellite can provide medical care across long distances by connecting patients in rural villages or remote islands to doctors in urban areas.

The service can also provide information to remote schools and residents and allow for emergency communication during a disaster, JAXA said.

Japan aims to enter the lucrative international market for satellite launching. Its H-2A large-size rocket, which has launched more than a dozen satellites, is one of the world's most advanced and consistent, though more cost-cutting efforts are needed to achieve a profitable business.

Japan launched its first satellite in 1970 and has marked several major scientific coups in space — including a probe that made a rendezvous with an asteroid.

Its domestically produced H-2A rocket is one of the world's most advanced and consistent, and Saturday's launch is its 14th.

Japan has recently been racing to catch up with China, a regional rival that has put astronauts in space twice since 2003 — only the third country to send a human into orbit on its own after Russia and the United States.

Following Beijing's success, Japan said it was reconsidering its focus on unmanned missions, announcing plans to send its first astronauts into space and set up a base on the moon by 2025.

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