S. Korea Plans Satellite Launch

By Frank Morring, Jr.

As North Korea keeps the world's militaries worried with what it claims was a satellite-launch attempt, South Korea is quietly preparing its first satellite mission for a July launch date.

Lee Joo-jin, president of the Korea Aerospace Research Institute, told a Washington audience late last week that the first Korea Space Launch Vehicle (KSLV-1) is scheduled to launch a 100-kilogram (220-pound) scientific satellite into low Earth orbit in July.

The liquid oxygen/kerosene rocket will lift off from the NARO Space Center on Oenaro Island in southwest Korea on a mission to orbit the country's second Science and Technology Satellite (SCISAT-2).

Based on previous South Korean micro-satellite technology, SCISAT-2 will carry the Dual-channel Radiometers for Earth & Atmosphere Monitoring (DREAM) instrument, and the Laser Reflector Array (LRA). DREAM is designed to measure Earth's brightness, while the LRA will allow precise measurements between the spacecraft and a ground station.

"As we develop our own satellite launch vehicles, the second one will be around 2017," Lee said. "We plan a lunar orbiter and a lunar lander, based on the KSLV-2 to send our satellite to the moon."

Under South Korea's guiding space-development legislation, the lunar orbiter would come in 2020, with a lander to follow in 2025.

Lee said his agency is working with NASA on scientific objectives for its lunar missions, and a technical team is scheduled to visit Seoul later this month to continue bilateral talks on a variety of cooperative efforts.

The South Korean government has continued to support the space program, which also uses U.S.-built communications satellites and launch vehicles as well as domestic Earth-observation spacecraft, Lee said. The country also is a participant in ongoing multilateral talks aimed at creating a "Global Exploration Strategy" to guide international human exploration of the moon and other bodies.

Lee cited the recent trip to the International Space Station (ISS) of Yi So-yeon, a South Korean astronaut who spent 10 days on the orbiting laboratory after launching on a Russian Soyuz, and said his agency would like to work with NASA and its space station partners to conduct long-duration experiments on the ISS.

However, Michael O'Brien, assistant NASA administrator for external relations, said that with the shuttle retiring as early as next year all of the seats are taken, and experiment space on the ISS is scarce for now.

However, with NASA developing a six-seat version of the Orion crew exploration vehicle for transport to the ISS, it may be possible to accommodate astronauts from Korea and other nations that aren't station partners in the future.

Photo of fairing separation test for KSLV-I DM: KARI

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