The project dates back to 2010 when South Korea put the first Cheollian satellite with a design life of ten years into orbit using an Ariane 5ECA carrier rocket lifting off from the Guiana Space Center in Kourou, French Guiana, to use it for communication, oceanography and meteorological observation. The first satellite owed a lot to foreign technology.
Geostationary satellites have the unique property of remaining permanently fixed in exactly the same position in the sky as viewed from any fixed location on Earth. They require a higher level of technology than other satellites.
From 2011, South Korea embarked on the development of home-made geostationary satellites, Cheollian 2A and 2B, as well as a three-stage indigenous rocket launch vehicle called the Korea Space Launch Vehicle-2 (KSLV-2), also known as Nuri, which will lift off in 2021. Cheollian 2B is the twin satellite of Cheollian 2A launched in December 2018.
"There were many technical deficiencies at first, but while developing Cheollian 2A and 2B, we've upgraded technical skills so much that we can receive orders from overseas companies," Choi Jae-dong, head of the state-run Korea Aerospace Research Institute's satellite program, said in a pool report on the eve of the launch of Cheollian 2B on Wednesday at the Guiana Space Center.
"South American and Central Asian (countries) have also made many proposals to develop communications satellites together using (our) geostationary satellites," Choi said. "While developing Cheollian 2A and 2B at the same time, we have gained self-esteem. There are many excellent aspects in terms of technology."
Common communications satellites have two solar panel wings unfolded on both sides, but Cheollian 2B has only one wing that requires asymmetric control, Choi said, promising to secure "world-class technologies."
If Cheollian 2B is successfully placed in a geostationary orbit 36,000 kilometers above the Earth, Choi said that South Korea would think about the simultaneous operation of several geostationary satellites in the same orbit. Cheollian 2B is a 3.4-ton multifunctional satellite that will begin providing marine environmental data in October this year and atmospheric environmental data in 2021.
The observation range of Cheollian 2B covers 13 countries in East Asia. The Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) said Cheollian 2B is mounted with an ultra-precision optical observation system called Geostationary Environmental Monitoring Spectrometer (GEMS) that can observe and track fine dust and air pollutants.
It is also equipped with Geostationary Ocean Color Imager-2 (GOCI-2), which can check for algal blooms and other water contaminants.
South Korea's space program has seen slow progress as other countries are reluctant to transfer core technologies. Three space rockets have been launched but two fired in 2009 and 2010 failed to reach orbit. The third one using Russian technology has put a satellite into orbit. In November 2018, South Korea's first home-made booster engine for Nuri was successfully launched.
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