S. Korea to launch new science satellite from Russia this week

March 25, 2015
An image of the Korea Multipurpose Satellite-3A (KOMSAT-3A) launched from Russia's Yasny launch base on March 26, 2015. (Photo courtesy of KARI)

An image of the Korea Multipurpose Satellite-3A (KOMSAT-3A) launched from Russia’s Yasny launch base on March 26, 2015. (Photo courtesy of KARI)

SEJONG/YASNY, Russia, March 25 (Joint Press Corps-Yonhap) — Preparations are on schedule for the launch of a new South Korean satellite this week that will help enhance its ability to monitor the Earth’s surface, the science ministry said Wednesday.

“The status of the satellite is stable and so there has been no change to the scheduled launch,” Choi Seok-yeon, an official from the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) overseeing the mission, told reporters in Yasny, Russia.

The Korea Multipurpose Satellite-3A (KOMSAT-3A) is scheduled to lift off at 3:08 a.m. (7:08 a.m. Thursday KST) from the Yasny launch base, located about 1,800 kilometers southeast of Moscow, according to the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning.

Weather conditions in Yasny are expected to remain stable throughout Thursday, KARI officials said.

The KOMSAT-3A is a science satellite built indigenously by KARI that cost nearly 236 billion won (US$213.5 million) since its development began in 2006.

It is designed to complement the KOMSAT-5 satellite that was sent into space in August 2013 with its high-resolution optical lens that will provide clear images of any object greater than 0.5 meter in diameter.

The KOMSAT-5 is the country’s first multipurpose satellite with synthetic aperture radar.

“Once the KOMSAT-3A is deployed, it will complement the country’s three other multipurpose satellites, including the KOMSAT-5, to create a complete observation system that will enable 24-hour monitoring of the Earth’s surface regardless of weather conditions,” the ministry said.

The satellite will be carried by a Russian space launch vehicle, Dnepr, a rocket converted from a Soviet-era intercontinental ballistic missile.

Choi, the KARI official, said the Russian rocket was picked from among four international bidders for its low price.

The launch was originally scheduled for 2014, but Choi said the delay was solely due to the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. “There have been no technical difficulties,” he said.

South Korea is developing its own space launch vehicle for a test launch in 2019.

The satellite will be deployed about 15 minutes following its launch and make its first contact with Norway’s Troll Satellite Station in Antarctica at 32 minutes after the launch.

It is expected to make its first contact with South Korea’s own ground station 5 hours and 56 minutes after its launch at 1:04 p.m. KST.