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(2nd LD) S. Korean satellite successfully reaches earth's orbit

All Headlines 10:41 May 18, 2012

(ATTN: UPDATES with more information in para 2)

SEOUL, May 18 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's multipurpose satellite equipped with a high-resolution camera successfully reached the earth's orbit after blasting off from a Japanese space center, the government said Friday.

The Arirang 3 satellite, which lifted off from the Tanegashima Space Center in southwestern Japan at 1:39 a.m., made contact with ground stations indicating that it has entered a correct trajectory, the Ministry of Science and Technology said. The Arirang was placed in orbit by Japan's H-2A rocket, which also carried three other satellites.

The Troll and Svalbard satellite stations located in Antarctica and Norway, established initial contacts followed by signals being received by the Daejeon-based Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) at around 3:18 a.m., it said.

The ministry said all of the satellite's solar panels have been deployed properly, allowing it to generate power.

The satellite has an electro-optical camera with a resolution of around 70 centimeters that can give Seoul the ability to take precise pictures of weather front developments and the earth's surface.

The satellite is expected to stay operational for four years and can also be used to enhance national security, cope with natural disasters, better manage resources and monitor the environment.

"The launch will be followed by about three months of tests and mechanical fine-tuning of all controls and the camera to get the satellite into operational readiness," said Choi Hae-jin, head of the Arirang 3 project at KARI. He speculated that the first photos from the satellite may arrive in 3-4 weeks.

The 980-kilogram satellite will take up its orbital station 685 kilometers from the earth's surface. It will circle the globe 14 times a day at 7.4 kilometers per second and fly over South Korea twice at 1:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.

The ministry said the Arirang 3, to be operated by the KARI, will be the country's first high-resolution "sub-meter" satellite. At present, only the United States and a handful of countries in Europe have commercial satellites with such high resolution.

The government spent 282.6 billion won (US$242.7 million) on the satellite building project, which began in 2004.

Seoul currently has the Arirang 2 multi-purpose satellite with a one-meter resolution camera in orbit along with a Chollian geostationary communication and ocean observation unit. It also has two communication satellites in orbit.

The country plans to put four other satellites into orbit in the future such as the Arirang 3A, the radar-equipped Arirang 5 and Science and Technology Satellite 3.

yonngong@yna.co.kr
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