- Associated Press - Thursday, May 17, 2012

TOKYO (AP) - A Japanese rocket has lifted off with a South Korean satellite in Japan’s first commercial launch of a foreign probe into space.

The HII-A rocket lifted off from a remote southwestern Japan island carrying the South Korean probe and three Japanese satellites.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, a private company in charge of HII-A rocket production since 2007, is hoping to compete with the U.S., Russia and Europe as a launch-vehicle provider. This was its first contract to launch a foreign probe.

The Korean satellite, KOMPSAT-3, was developed by the Korea Aerospace Research Institute to monitor the environment. The rocket also carried Japan’s Shizuku satellite to monitor climate change and two smaller Japanese probes.