Korea becomes world's sixth sat power

24 Aug 2006
00:00
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(Korea Times via NewsEdge) On July 28, a group of South Korean scientists nervously huddled around a TV monitor at the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) in Taejon, about 200 kilometers south of Seoul.

As the rocket on the screen blasted off and disappeared into the sky, they erupted into a loud cheer full of a sense of victory. Unfortunately, their boss wasn't with them. He was in Russia, checking the launch in person.

That was the moment Korea became the world's No. 6 satellite power, joining the ranks of a handful of nations with the capability of taking satellite pictures with a 1-meter resolution.

Arirang-2 took off from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome, approximately 800 kilometers northeast of Moscow, just after 4 p.m. (Korean time) and settled into its orbit 685 kilometers above the earth.

"At that time, I felt as if I were on fire because a couple of days before the liftoff a similar rocket had exploded when carrying a satellite," said KARI director Lee Joo-jin, who is in charge of the Arirang-2 project.

"However, the rocket loaded with Arirang-2 did its job without any glitch and we could finally forget all the stress built up over years of hard work," Lee, who watched the launch at the site, added.

Two days before Arirang-2 took to the sky, a Russian booster, a Dnepr rocket converted from an intercontinental ballistic missile, exploded when carrying another Korean satellite, the Hausat-1.

Hausat-1 was a small box-sized satellite produced with a minimal budget by researchers at Hankuk Aviation University to help students better understand the process of manufacturing satellites.

Lee had reason to worry. Like the Dnepr rocket, the rocket carrying the Arirang-2 was also transformed from an intercontinental missile.

To the relief of Lee and his associates, the Rockot launcher soared into the sky without problems and Arirang-2 successfully separated from the three-stage booster and deployed its solar panels, which allowed the earth-probing satellite to use solar power.

The ground control station checked that the 800-kilogram Arirang-2 was in its designated orbit and was functioning properly.

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