By Cho Mu-hyun
The observation satellite Arirang 3 is scheduled for launch Friday, but speculation remains over whether or not its journey into space will be successful.
Officials from the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) stationed at the Tanegashima Space Center in Japan from where it is to be launched say everything is going as planned.
“We have had difficult times and many trials and errors to come to where we are now,” said a KARI spokesman. “We believe the Arirang 3 launch will be successful, and that once it reaches the desired orbit, it will greatly contribute to Korean surveillance information capabilities.”
The 980-kilgoram satellite is the third in the Arirang series, and its predecessors have all made it to outer space without much trouble: Arirang 1 was launched from the United States in 1999, and its successor from Russia in 2006. According to KARI, the newest satellite is not only more advanced than its predecessors, but is almost completely locally developed.
“In making a satellite, you need blueprints, equipment and a plan. You need to cover various details, and it is not easy to really put a measurement to each involved party’s input. But even considering those factors, we can say that Arirang 3 is near 80 percent Korean,” said the official.
The satellite arrived in Tanegashima on March 16, along with the KARI team. A final check-up is scheduled for Wednesday, with the satellite being put on the launch pad Thursday when fuelling will begin.
It contains an Advanced Earth Imaging Sensor System (AEISS) camera that has a resolution, 89 times greater in screen clarity than Arirang 1’s 6.6 meters-resolution camera. Unlike Arirang 2, which could only record views from a fixed angle, the new satellite can shift its main operation system left and right, allowing fuller, diversified coverage.
KARI is expecting a 4 year operational period, for Arirang 3 and it will start providing surveillance data services in September after a three months test-period, providing it succeeds in reaching its designated 685 kilometer orbit above Earth.
Korea doesn’t have the technology to build a rocket that can carry satellites weighing almost 1-ton, and must rely on an H-IIA rocket provided by Japan.
During the actual launch date, the Korean team will monitor the satellite, while the rocket will be under the supervision of the Japanese team.
“Tanegashima Space Center has a long history ― over 50 years. They have launched 20 rockets since 2001, and have only failed once in 2003,” said Hwang Bo-soon, director of KARI’s satellite division. “It is impossible to give a subjective declaration on whether a rocket launch will be successful or not. But previous data indicate that we are likely to succeed. We definitely hope so.”
According to Hwang, the time of the launch was set at dawn to make sure KARI gets a clear visual from the Korean peninsula, when the satellite will separate from the rocket and send a signal to the Naro Space Center 676 seconds after launch. The phase is crucial to determine whether the satellite reaches orbit, as Hwang admits that “anything can happen.”
“Along with the to-be-launched Arirang 3A, which has an infra-red camera, and Arirang 5. I believe that Arirang 3 will provide Koreans with important information concerning natural resources and security among other things,” said Hwang.