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Arirang 2 sends first photographs, crisp resolution fits 1 square meter in a pixel

South Korea, 30 August 2006: A multipurpose satellite that South Korea launched into space on July 28, has sent back its first photographs, proving that the images provided by Arirang 2 are vivid enough to distinguish small objects on the ground. The Ministry of Science and Technology and the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) unveiled the images from the high-resolution cameras of Arirang 2.

Photographs include those of Mount Baekdu, the highest peak on the Korean peninsula, the shoreline and airports of South Africa’s Cape Town, and the San Francisco International Airport.

“The images were obtained earlier than scheduled, and we are satisfied with their quality considering that they were taken as part of a test run,” said Paik Hong-yul, head of KARI, in a press briefing just after the release of the photos.

Arirang 2 circles the globe 14.5 times a day, 685 kilometers above the earth’s surface. The camera mounted on the satellite has a resolution of one square meter, which means an area of that size can be shown as one pixel. “With further adjustment, we will be able to receive even better images,” Paik said.

The older satellite i.e. Arirang 1 could take photos with a pixel size of 6.6 square meters, whereas Arirang 2’s crisp resolution fits 1 square meter in a pixel. Lee Ju-jin, who is in charge of the satellite division at KARI, said even a bus can be distinguished from the satellite’s photograph of Mount Baekdu.

KARI is planning to sell the images from the satellite starting from next year. To that end, KARI has signed contracts with several companies in the U.S., France, and the Middle East, as well as local firms. A photograph of a 15-square-kilometer area will fetch around US$10,000. Given that the satellite is slated to be operational for three years, it will be able to earn a total of $54 million, according to KARI’s forecast.

However, as Arirang 2’s predecessor outlived its anticipated operational duration of three years, Paik said “Arirang 2 could stay in space for more than five years.”