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Information Gathering Satellite

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Information Gathering Satellite

An Information Gathering Satellite (IGS) is a satellite in a Japanese spy satellite program. It was started as a response to the 1998 North Korean missile test over Japan. The satellite program's main mission is to provide early warning of impending hostile launches in the neighborhood. This program is under direct control of the cabinet. However, Earth observation is a rather new field for Japan. The first Japanese mission in this field MOS-1 was launched only in 1987.

The first pair of satellites, IGS 1A and IGS 1B, was launched on 28 March 2003 aboard an H-IIA rocket.[1] The radar satellite of the pair stopped working in March 2007.[2] The program suffered a big setback when Japan lost the second pair of satellites because of an H-IIA launch failure on 29 November 2003.[3] All of the Information Gathering Satellites were launched by an H-IIA rocket from Tanegashima Space Center.

On 28 March 2003, presumably partly in response to North Korea's launch of a Taepodong rocket over Japan in 1998, and partly to provide a source of satellite images other than through cooperation with the US, where the US charged roughly $10,000US dollars for each satellite image, Japan launched a radar and an optical spy satellite, officially known as Information Gathering Satellites (情報収集衛星) IGS-1A and IGS-1B.[1] These satellites follow one another at 37-minute separation in a 492 km orbit, which passes over Pyongyang at 11:22 each day, according to observations collected on the seesat-L mailing list.

A second pair of satellites officially known as IGS 2A and IGS 2B were lost in an H-IIA launch accident in November 2003.[3] Except the satellite which failed in launching, a second optical surveillance satellite IGS 3A was launched on 11 September 2006.[4] A third optical satellite IGS 4A and a second radar satellite IGS 4B were launched on 24 February 2007. IGS 4A is a more advanced and experimental optical satellite.[5] A fourth optical satellite IGS 5A was launched on 28 November 2009. This satellite has the resolution that is higher than previous generation. It is the second generational optical satellite.[6] Late March 2007, the first SAR satellite in the series, IGS 1B, suffered a critical power failure.[7] The satellite has since been observed to steadily come down and was clearly no longer under control.[8] An uncontrolled re-entry of this satellite occurred on July 26, 2012.[9] Since summer 2010, another of the SAR satellites, IGS 4B has also been unable to carry out its monitoring functions.[10]


Launch Date (UTC) NORAD Designation Japanese Government Designation Sensor Type NORAD ID International code Status Generation Believed Resolution Initial Orbital Parameter Vehicle Result
28 March 2003 IGS 1A IGS-Optical 1 Optical 27698 2003-009A Operational 1st generation of optical Panchromatic sensor:About 1 m (mono)
Multi-spectral sensor:About 5 m (color)
486–491 km, 97.3°, 94.4 min H2A2024 Success
IGS 1B IGS-Radar 1 SAR 27699 2003-009B Non-Operational from March 2007[2] 1st generation of SAR About 1~3 m
29 November 2003 IGS 2A Nameless for launching failure Optical N/A N/A Non-Operational 1st generation of optical Panchromatic sensor:About 1 m (mono)
Multi-spectral sensor:About 5 m (color)
N/A H2A2024 Failure
IGS 2B Nameless for launching failure SAR N/A N/A Non-Operational 1st generation of SAR About 1~3m
11 September 2006 IGS 3A IGS-Optical 2 Optical 29393 2006-037A Operational 2nd generation of optical
(Improved type)
1 m 478–479 km, 97.4°, 94.2 min H2A202 Success
24 February 2007 IGS 4A IGS-Experimentally Optical 3 Optical 30586 2007-005A Non-Operational 3rd generation of optical
(Largely improved type)
About 60 cm 481–494 km, 97.2°, 94.4 min H2A2024 Success
IGS 4B IGS-Radar 2 SAR 30587 2007-005B Non-Operational since summer 2010[10] 2nd generation of SAR
(Improved type)
1 m
28 November 2009 IGS 5A IGS-Optical 3 Optical 36104 2009-066A Operational 3rd generation of optical
(Largely improved type)
About 60 cm Unknown H2A202 Success
22 September 2011 IGS 6A IGS-Optical 4 Optical 37813 2011-050A Operational 4th generation of optical About 60 cm Unknown H2A202 Success
12 December 2011 IGS 7A IGS-Radar 3 SAR 37954 2011-075A Operational 3rd generation of SAR About 1m Unknown H2A202 Success
27 January 2013 IGS 8A IGS-Radar 4 SAR 39061 2013-002A Operational 3rd generation of SAR About 1m Unknown H2A202 Success
IGS 8B IGS-Optical 5 Demo Optical 39062 2013-002B Operational 5th generation of optical 40 cm


  1. ^ a b "Analysis: Japan's spy satellites". News article. BBC NEWS. 28 March 2003. Retrieved 23 December 2009. 
  2. ^ a b "Japanese Spy Satellite Suffers Critical Power Failure". News article. SPACE WAR. 27 March 2007. Retrieved 23 December 2009. 
  3. ^ a b "Japanese launch fails". News article. Spaceflight Now. 29 November 2003. Retrieved 23 December 2009. 
  4. ^ "Japan launches new spy satellite". News article. BBC NEWS. 11 September 2006. Retrieved 23 December 2009. 
  5. ^ "Japanese rocket puts spy spacecraft into orbit". News article. Spaceflight Now. 24 February 2007. Retrieved 23 December 2009. 
  6. ^ "Japan launches spy satellite under veil of secrecy". News article. Spaceflight Now. 28 November 2009. Retrieved 23 December 2009. 
  7. ^ "Japanese Spy Satellite Suffers Critical Power Failure.". News article. Space War. 27 March 2007. Retrieved 21 August 2011. 
  8. ^ "An Update on IGS 1B". SatTrackCam Leiden. 6 July 2011. Retrieved 15 July 2011. 
  9. ^ "The re-entry of IGS 1B on 26 July 2012". SatTrackCam Leiden. 8 August 2012. Retrieved 15 September 2012. 
  10. ^ a b "Govt to build backup intel satellite". News article. THE DAILY YOMIURI. 10 October 2010. Retrieved 11 October 2010. 

External links

  • "Lifting The Darkness On Japan's Next Spy Satellite", SpaceDaily, 27 Nov 2006.
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