The Arirang-5, Korea’s first multi-purpose satellite equipped with a synthetic aperture radar (SAR) for earth observation, is launched in August this year, two years behind schedule for the demand from the Russian military. Under the circumstances, experts are urging the Korean government to diversify its international cooperation channels for satellite development.
The Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning announced on May 23 that it launches the KOMPSAT-5 on August 22 in the Jasny Launch Station in Russia, no less than two years after the development at an investment of as much as 238.1 billion won.
The development project was completed in April 2011. Although the Korean government planned to launch the satellite in the same year, it was postponed until the latter half of the following year for reasons on the part of Russia before another delay until May this year. However, the promise was not kept and the X-day has been fixed on August 22 at last.
The Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI), which is in charge of the launch, signed a contract with the Russian agent of ISC Kosmotras by paying approximately 19 billion won. The repeated delays are because the Russian military authorities, which control the launch vehicle and station, did not give the approval while demanding extra payment to the company. “As far as I know, the military demanded 60% to 70% more of the contract cost,” said KARI president Kim Seung-jo. He continued,“The Russian government granted its permission only after the additional payment was made.”
In short, the Armed Forces of Russia acted as an unexpected variable in the bilateral cooperation between Korea and Russia for the satellite launch service to cause the trouble. For Korea to launch its satellite by means of Russia’s launch vehicle, approvals are required from the military authorities, the Russia Aero-space Agency (RASA), etc. “The Russian President told earlier this year to expedite the postponed launch of satellites and the RASA positively reviewed the three projects including the KOMPSAT-5,” president Kim went on, adding, “However, the military intervened again to demand the extra payment.”
Industry experts are pointing out that the Korean government needs to come up with more stable plans for satellite launching by diversifying its cooperation channels in the current situation in which it is not capable of putting its satellite into orbit on its own. “The collaboration with Russia has the possibility of some instability,” he continued, “Therefore, we will have to consider holding hands with other countries, such as Ukraine, which are in possession of launch vehicles.”
The Arirang-5 uses its SAR to send microwaves onto the ground surface and create images by measuring the time lag of the reflected signals. Also, it is capable of observing the earth in cloudy weather conditions and at night. It can obtain much better satellite images as a supplement for the KOMPSAT-2 and KOMPSAT-3. The satellite is going to be utilized for disaster prevention, the monitoring of the state of natural resources utilization, etc.