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Chollian marks major leap in S. Korea's satellite program

All Headlines 07:22 June 27, 2010

SEOUL, June 27 (Yonhap) -- The launch of South Korea's Chollian satellite marks a major leap forward for the country's space development program, a state-run aerospace agency said Sunday.

The Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) in charge of the country's rocket and satellite projects said the liftoff of the communication, ocean and meteorological satellite (COMS) from the Guiana Space Center in South America represents a milestone in the country's "catch-up effort" with established leaders in this cutting technology field.

The Daejeon-based institute, located 160 kilometers south of Seoul, said the satellite makes South Korea the first country in the world to operate an oceanographic observation satellite in geostationary orbit that can simultaneously provide weather-related information and communications services around the clock.

The Chollian, which took eight years to build and will circle the globe at an altitude of around 36,000 kilometers, also makes the country the seventh in the world to operate an independent weather satellite after the United States, the European Union, Japan, China, India and Russia.

"The COMS highlights what the country has achieved in the satellite field in the past two decades," KARI said. It pointed out that because the country sent up its first "Uribyol" or Korean Institute of Technology Satellite (KITSAT) in August 11, 1992, it entered the satellite race 40 years behind forerunners in this sector.

Since the KITSAT launch program, which included two other machines, the country placed a total of 12 satellites -- including the Chollian -- into the Earth's orbit. These include four Mugunghwa or Koreasat telecommunication satellites operated by the private sector; two multipurpose Arirang satellites equipped with advanced, high resolution cameras; and a single Science and Technology Satellite-1 (STSAT-1) into space in 2003.

SK Telecom Co., a local telecommunications service provider, had also placed the world's first digital multimedia broadcasting satellite called the "Hanbyul" in orbit in 2004 along in cooperation with Japanese partner Mobile Broadcasting Corp.

"At present the country's satellite technology level and knowhow is around 70-80 percent of 'early starters' like the U.S. and Russia but it is reducing the gap," the space agency claimed.

It said that at the current pace, the country should reach levels roughly on a par with some satellite technology leaders before 2030.

KARI said that even if the Naro-1 rocket carrying the STSAT-2 was lost during liftoff, the country is in the process of developing or deploying at least four other satellites in the next few years to replace and augment four in operation. The Naro-1 also called the Korea Space Launch Vehicle-1 was the country's first locally assembled space rocket built with extensive support from Russia.

Two satellites are to blast off in the second half of this year, including the Arirang 5, which will have a radar imaging device that can detect developments on the Earth's surface at night and in bad weather.

The agency under the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology said that the ultimate goal is to develop comprehensive technologies to launch all of its satellites without relying on foreign rockets and launch pads.

The country recently built the Naro Space Center off the country's southern coast to spur its space program.

Seoul, meanwhile, is engaged in a space program that calls for the building of a 300-ton thrust rocket capable of carrying a 1.5 ton satellite into orbit by 2020 and to place a probe around the Moon five years later.

yonngong@yna.co.kr
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