Spot To Market South Korean High-Res Satellite

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  Space News Business

Spot To Market South Korean High-Res Satellite

By PETER B. de SELDING
Space News Staff Writer
posted: 21 November 2006
09:53 am ET




TOULOUSE, France – South Korea’s Kompsat-2 high-resolution optical Earth observation satellite is being positioned in the market as a 1-meter-resolution spacecraft whose images will be openly available to most customers, according to South Korean and French officials responsible for selling the data.

Data from Kompsat-2, launched in July, has not been presold in bulk to any government user outside South Korea. The South Korean government has reserved the right to images taken as the satellite passes over the Korean peninsula, according to Yong-Seung Kim, satellite operations manager at the Korea Aerospace Research Institute, KARI.

The satellite is capable of detecting objects as small as 1 meter in diameter in black-and-white mode and 4 meters in diameter in four-band multispectral mode. Images are taken in swaths measuring 15 kilometers in diameter.

Kompsat-2 data is being marketed worldwide by Spot Image, based here, under a contract with KARI.

Christophe Cortes, Spot Image high-resolution project manager, said much of the capacity aboard satellites operated by DigitalGlobe and GeoEye of the United States has been prebooked by the U.S. government, reducing the amount available openly on the market. Because the South Korean government has reserved only a limited amount of Kompsat-2 capacity, the satellite will fill a gap in high-resolution coverage for businesses and governments worldwide, he said.

Mark Brender, vice president of communications and marketing at Dulles, Va.-based GeoEye, said the U.S. government, while an important customer, does not own capacity on the company’s two existing high-resolution imaging satellites. The government has prebooked capacity on the company’s GeoEye-1 satellite by virtue of its investment in that system, which is slated for launch next year, he said. “But GeoEye-1 will be a huge collector, and most everything the government collects will also be made available commercially,” he said.

For Kompsat-1, KARI has ” an open-sales policy for all coverage except the Korean peninsula,” Kim said here Nov. 9 during a conference on satellite imagery organized by Spot Image. “We don’t have any limitation on data distribution, but of course in certain cases, it will depend on our diplomatic relations with the government seeking to purchase data.”

Kim said that recently the Pakistani government had sought to purchase Kompsat imagery of its territory, a request that was refused by the Korean government.

Kompsat-2 is completing its in-orbit testing and its data is expected to be available for commercial sale early in 2007, Kim said.

Cortes said Spot Image, which currently does not have a 1-meter system of its own , has high hopes for Kompsat-2.

“The satellite is capable of imaging up to 1.7 million kilometers per day in continuous streaming,” Cortes said. Spot Image will sell the imagery per square kilometer, with different levels of service — standard, priority and urgent.

As is the case with most commercial imaging satellites , the government market for both civil and military applications is expected to be the biggest source of Kompsat-2 revenue, with surveillance of sensitive regions among the most obvious applications, Cortes said.

Kim said KARI and its Kompsat-2 industrial partners have begun testing a small mobile antenna for Kompsat-2 at Norway’s Svalbard islands inside the Arctic Circle.

Spot Image’s relationship with KARI on Kompsat-2 is similar to an existing contract the company has with Taiwan’s National Space Organization, NSPO, on the Formosat-2 satellite.

Formosat-2, which entered commercial service in mid-2005, features a 2-meter-resolution black-and-white camera and a 24-kilometer swath width. It is not in the usual polar or near-polar orbit but circles the Earth exactly 14 times per day in a sun-synchronous orbit that guarantees revisits a given coverage area once per day. Yung Liu, NSPO business development manager, said sales of Formosat-2 data are open worldwide except during overflights of Taiwan and China.

As part of South Korea’s long-term space program, which is partly designed to assure national independence in satellite imagery, KARI has begun early designs on a Kompsat-3 satellite, which will have an optical imager with a 70-centimeter ground resolution, Kim said. KARI recently purchased a 1-meter radar imager from Alcatel Alenia Space’s Italian branch. The imager will be integrated into KARI’s Kompsat-5 satellite, also known in South Korea as Arirang-5.

Kompsat-5/Arirang-5 will have 3- and 20-meter scan modes. It is scheduled for launch in 2008.