Seoul, 12 July 2006: South Korea will launch a satellite for geographical updates, natural resource searches and environmental observation. The multipurpose Arirang 2 satellite is scheduled to lift off on July 28 from a launch pad in the Plesetsk Cosmodrome, about 800 km northeast of Moscow, the Ministry of Science and Technology said.
The launch is expected to give the country the ability to take high-resolution pictures of the earth’s surface. The 800 kg satellite will be placed in a low orbit 685 km from the earth by a Russian rocket. The satellite is equipped with a high-resolution, multi- spectral camera jointly developed by a local company and Electro Optical Industries Ltd of Israel that has a resolution of 1 sq.metre, close enough to distinguish individual cars on the ground.
The Ministry of Science and Technology and the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) said Arirang 2 will be used to update the country’s geographical database, keep track of environmental developments and help search for natural resources.
“The satellite will travel 6.8 km a second and circle the globe every 100 minutes, or slightly more than 14 times a day,” taking photos for about 20 minutes each time, said Paik Hong-yul, the president of KARI. The camera can take photos of 15-km-wide strips of land at every pass, and theoretically photograph the entire Korean Peninsula in about two minutes.
The scientist said the satellite is designed to follow the orbital course of the Arirang 1 satellite, launched in late 1999, which has a camera resolution that can tell apart buildings. He added, 113 state-owned and private research facilities will have access to the photos, and while military and intelligence sources could look at the photos, the main customers will be in research and the private sector.
The KARI shipped the satellite to Russia on 20 June. South Korean and Russian technicians have conducted last-minute checks in preparation for the launch. “The success of the launch is very important for South Korea’s satellite development schedule,” Paik said, since there is no backup satellite if something goes wrong.
Reflecting the satellite’s capability to take high-definition photographs, KARI signed a 27m US dollars deal with France’s Spot Image Co. to provide pictures during the satellite’s three-year operational life cycle. The lift off of Arirang 2, originally scheduled for November, was delayed by technical problems related to both the Israeli camera and Russian rocket. The latter blew up in October 2005, causing a re- examination of the design.