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Cheollian enters orbit after liftoff

Korea’s first geostationary satellite was successfully put on its planned initial orbit after its launch from Guiana Space Center in Kourou, French Guinea, said officials Sunday.

The Ariane 5-ECA rocket carrying Korea’s first geostationary satellite Cheollian lifts off the Guiana Space Center in Kourou, French Guiana, Sunday. Yonhap News
The Ariane 5-ECA rocket carrying Korea’s first geostationary satellite Cheollian lifts off the Guiana Space Center in Kourou, French Guiana, Sunday. Yonhap News
The Cheollian satellite opened communication with the Dongara Ground Station in Australia at 7:19 a.m. on Sunday, 38 minutes after liftoff, according to the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology.

The satellite is then to make another contact with the KARI center in around 10 days in order to confirm its complete success.

It is also to contact other ground centers in Hawaii, Italy and Chile in between in order to confirm its proper position.

The Ariane 5-ECA, the joint projectile carrying Cheollian and the Saudi Arabian satellite Arabsat 5A, left ground at 6:41 a.m. Sunday, after two consecutive delays on Thursday and Friday.

Prior delays were due to pressure abnormalities found in the second-stage rocket by officials of Arianespace, the French company in charge of the launch, shortly before its initial launch hour.

Cheollian separated from the second-stage rocket 32 minutes after takeoff and successfully reached its geostationary transfer orbit, said officials.

The satellite is expected to completely spread out its solar panels and rise into its final orbital altitude of 36,000 kilometers, according to the ministry and Korea Aerospace Research.

It will then stay in an orbit above the equator at 128.2 degrees east longitude to offer 24-hour surveillance over the Korean Peninsula, said officials.

Once that happens, the KARI will conduct a series of tests on the satellite’s functions before it starts its official weather observation services in December.

The 2,460-kilogram Cheollian is the world’s first geostationary ocean monitoring satellite designed to measure weather and environment changes.

Upon its successful launch, Korea joined the United States, the European Union, Japan, China, India and Russia to operate an independent weather satellite. It also became the tenth to build its own communication satellite, said officials.

Korea receives its weather information from a Japanese satellite every 30 minutes. When Cheollian starts its official service, the frequency will be reduced to 15 minutes or eight minutes in an emergency.

The Korean satellite was built by the Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute and the Korea Ocean Research and Development Institute, together with French cooperation.

A total of 354.9 billion won ($291.6 million) has been spent since 2003 on building the satellite, which is to stay in service for seven years.

Naro, the first Korean-made rocket to carry a Korean satellite, was launched on June 10 but exploded in midair.

By Bae Hyun-jung  (tellme@heraldcorp.com)
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