The KOMPSAT-3, also known as Arirang-3, is designed to provide geographical information of the Korean Peninsula with better technology than its two predecessors.
Loaded on a Japanese rocket, the multipurpose satellite will lift off from the southern island of Tanegashima, some 115 kilometers south of Kyushu.
|Researchers examine Korea’s multipurpose satellite Arirang-3 at the Tanegashima Space Center in Japan on May 1. (Korea Aerospace Research Institute)|
The launch is due at 1:39 a.m. on May 18 from the Tanegashima Space Center, located on an island some 115 kilometers south of Kyushu.
The satellite carries a multispectral camera that can distinguish a 0.7-meter object on the Earth, enhanced from the previous Arirang-2 launched in 2006.
If the KOMPSAT-3 runs successfully, Korea will become the world’s fourth country to own a “sub-meter” level Earth observing satellite.
It will operate at an altitude of 685 kilometers, circling and monitoring the Earth for the next four years, according to the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology.
The satellite’s main mission is to provide geographical information data on the Korean Peninsula during its four-year lifespan.
It will serve along with the existing Arirang-2 to provide continuous satellite observation, allowing the country to monitor environmental changes and agriculture, fishery and forestry resources.
It will also help provide warning signs for natural disasters and scan disaster-stricken areas, according the Korea Aerospace Research Institute.
The ministry said if the launch is successful the satellite will start to operate from September after testing it for three months.
Korea currently has the Arirang-2 multi-purpose satellite that is equipped with a one-meter resolution camera, but its role is limited, and the country is still largely dependent on information provided by the United States.
Korea’s space program suffered a setback in 2009 when its first space rocket failed to reach orbit.
The government is aiming to make 2012 the year to further expand its space technology. The government is planning to launch three more satellites, each designed to perform a unique function, within this year.
Korea launched its first Earth-observatory satellite Arirang-1 in 1999, and since 2004 Korea has invested heavily, spending more than 282 billion won ($248 million) on its satellite project.
By Oh Kyu-wook (firstname.lastname@example.org)