According to DIGITIMES Research, South Korea has built a common standard platform for 500kg next-generation mid-size satellites, suitable for various payloads such as electro-optical cameras, high-spectral resolution instruments, imaging radar, and microwave sensors. This will be advantageous in shortening development time and reducing costs.
South Korea has developed four types of satellites: small, medium, multipurpose and GEO observation satellites. The first three operate in low earth orbit (LEO) at an altitude of less than 1000 km, which are related to the development of LEO communication satellites for 6G, while the geosynchronous equatorial orbit (GEO) observation satellites could potentially serve as the technical foundation for South Korea’s development of its own global positioning system (GPS), said DIGITIMES Research Researcher Zhenyu Tu.
South Korea currently uses the American GPS signal for its positioning and plans to construct a satellite-based augmentation system (SBAS) to improve accuracy, which could help accelerating the development of self-driving technology such as autonomous vehicles and drones in South Korea. South Korea aims to establish its own GPS service by 2035, further reducing positioning errors to the centimeter level.
South Korea has also developed a next-generation small experimental satellite and a medium LEO satellite that will carry out missions, such as components tests and earth observation, respectively. Both the multipurpose and GEO observation satellites are of commercial grade. South Korea began developing the multipurpose earth observation satellite, dubbed as Arirang-1, in 1994.
Arirang-3, -3A, and -5 are still operating in LEO, while Arirang-6, 7, and 7A await to be launched. In addition to consulting with overseas companies and importing some core power devices, South Korea has mainly led the design, assembly, and testing of these satellites.
On the other hand, “Chollian” is a GEO satellite, and currently has Chollian-1, -2A, and -2B in operation. Among them, Chollian-1 was developed jointly by the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) and Astrium, a French aerospace company, while Chollian -2A and -2B were developed solely by KARI, which would allow South Korea more autonomy in its space program.
South Korea plans to invest US$500 million over eight years from 2024 to 2031 in order to master the five core technologies of LEO: satellite communication payloads, satellite bodies, systems integration that includes assembly, launch and operation, as well as ground stations and base stations.
Initially outsourcing the launch since the early 1990s, South Korea has continued to develop the domestically-made rocket KSLV-II(Korean Space Launch Vehicle-II), dubbed Nuri (world), and subsequent plans to achieve independent launches and reduce its dependence on foreign countries for the crucial 6G mobile communication links.
South Korea ranks seventh in the world’s space launch system technology capabilities, joining the United States, Russia, France, China, Japan and India.