Japan's H-2A rocket put an information-gathering satellite into orbit on Dec. 12, lifting the rate of successful launches to an internationally competitive 95 percent.
The H-2A Launch Vehicle No. 20 was launched from the Tanegashima Space Center in Kagoshima Prefecture at 10:21 a.m. for a 14th consecutive successful launch. Only one of the 20 launches, in November 2003, failed.
The success rate of the H-2A is on a par with 96.4 percent for the Atlas 5 of the United States and 94.9 percent for the European Ariane 5, according to the science ministry.
A success rate of 95 percent is considered a measure of high reliability.
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. has been trying to win international contracts for rocket launches since 2007, when the operation was privatized.
The H-2A separated from the satellite at 10:41 a.m. It was the seventh information-gathering satellite put into its orbit, except for experimental models.
Japan has launched information-gathering satellites, effectively spy satellites, since 2003 after North Korea conducted missile tests in 1998.
The satellite launched on Dec. 12 is the third radar satellite, which can investigate the Earth's surface with radio waves even at night or through cloudy skies.
The satellite has about the same capabilities as a commercial satellite and is said to be able to recognize any object 1 meter or larger on the Earth although performance details have not been released.
Japan has spent about 50 billion yen ($644 million) on developing, manufacturing and launching the satellite.
The H-2A is Japan's main rocket and is based on the H-2, the first domestically produced rocket. The first H-2A was launched in August 2001. The improved version, the H-2B, was also successfully launched twice.
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