Korea Poised to Launch 3 Satellites

      January 09, 2010 07:56

      Researchers of the Korea Aerospace Research Institute lay down the 3.2 m-long Communication, Ocean and Meteorological Satellite for assembly. /Courtesy of Korea Aerospace Research Institute

      Three Korean satellites will be sent into orbit this year: a weather satellite called the Communication, Ocean and Meteorological Satellite (COMS), the Arirang-5 multi-purpose satellite which can capture images of objects on the ground even through cloud cover, and the Mugungwha-6 satellite that will handle digital broadcast transmissions. COMS will make Korea the seventh country to develop a weather satellite using its own technology.

      The trio of satellites will fly into space to perform a wide range of missions, including meteorological data gathering, terrestrial observation and Internet connection service.

      ◆ Weather Data Every 8 Minutes

      The 2.5-ton COMS, which was developed by the Korea Aerospace Research Institute, observes weather conditions at geostationary orbit 36,000 km above the earth. A geostationary satellite remains in a fixed spot and orbits at the same speed as the earth. COMS, which is scheduled for launch during the first half of this year, can relay meteorological information back every eight minutes.

      At present, Korean weather officials receive meteorological information twice an hour in the form of cloud images relayed by Japan's MTSAT-1R geostationary satellite. A low-orbiting satellite operated by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration also sends weather data to Korea eight times a day. In other words, Korean weather officials rely on information provided by Japanese and American satellites even if a snowstorm or typhoon is approaching. But with COMS they will be able to obtain their own data, which is expected to boost the accuracy of forecasts. COMS is the first geostationary satellite to be equipped with a maritime sensor enabling it to monitor the oceans surrounding Korea.

      ◆ Satellite Images in Any Weather

      The main mission of Arirang-5, which is scheduled for launch at the end of this year, is to provide satellite images of the earth. The 1.4-ton satellite operates at an altitude of just 550 km. Unlike other multi-purpose Korean satellites presently in orbit, Arirang-5 uses a synthetic aperture radar which makes it capable of capturing images under conditions impossible for its predecessors because they relied on visible rays just like ordinary cameras.

      ◆ High-Speed Internet Services in Remote Areas

      KT's Mugungwha-6 satellite scheduled for launch during the second half of the year will be used to transmit broadcast signals. The 1.1-ton Mugungwha-6 is also a geostationary satellite that operates 36,000 km above the earth. It is currently being constructed by Thales Alenia Space of France and will replace Mugunghwa-3, whose mission ends in 2011. The satellite will be used to relay digital broadcast signals and make internet service available in remote regions of Korea.

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