South Korea's firstdual-use commercial and military communications satellite is now in space aftera successful blastoff from a floating platform in the central Pacific Ocean.
The 22nd mission for Sea Launch'sZenit 3SL rocket began with a fiery liftoff from the Odyssey launch platform at0327 GMT Tuesday (11:27 p.m. EDT Monday). Positioned along the Equator at 154degrees West longitude, the former Norwegian oil-drilling rig was in a primelocation for the three-stage rocket to receive a boost from Earth's fasterrotation at such low latitudes.
It took just over an hourfor the launcher to release the Koreasat 5 satellite in the targetedoval-shaped orbit stretching from a low point of about 1,800 miles to a highpoint of around 22,300 miles. Its inclination was zero degrees.
A few minutes afterspacecraft separation, controllers in the Sea Launch command ship received wordthat an Italian ground station had heard the first radio signals from Koreasat 5,proving the 9,806-pound satellite was in good health following the harrowingride to orbit.
Sea Launch president andgeneral manager Rob Peckham confirmed the success in front of a group ofinvited guests gathered at the company's California headquarters. "Thishas been another extremely successful Sea Launch mission."
Koreasat 5 will soonmaneuver itself into a circular orbit some 22,300 miles above Earth. Ingeostationary orbit, the craft will be anchored above the Equator at 113degrees East longitude, or directly over the island of Borneo. Once in thecorrect orbital slot, Koreasat 5 will begin operations scheduled to last up to15 years.
Carrying a high-poweredpayload of broadband transponders, Koreasat 5 will operate on behalf of SouthKorea's Agency for Defense Development and the KT Corporation - a leadingtelecommunications provider in the Asia-Pacific region. A total of 36transponders are split between the two co-owners.
Withthe new satellite, South Korea's military will have a dedicated system to offera secure route for critical communications throughout the armed forces. Eightchannels in the super high frequency band and four Ka-band transponders make upthe craft's payload. Koreasat 5 is the nation's first satellite with militarycommunications as a primary objective.
"I am very pleased withthis perfect flight," said Jong Soo Kim, head of the Agency for DefenseDevelopment. "The year 2006 marks a new year in Korean militarycommunications history."
Koreasat 5 also includestechnology and systems developed for the French defense ministry's Syracuse 3program.
"Koreasat 5 will bethe essential equipment for the future combat system in Korea," said MajorGeneral Chi Gue Rim of the country's Joint Chiefs of Staff. "It will playone of the most important roles for military operations in the Asia-Pacificarea."
KT Corp. will beresponsible for 24 Ku-band transponders that will reach commercial customers ina swath extending from eastern China southward to the Philippines. Thiscoverage area also includes the Korean peninsula and Japan.
Half of the KT Corp.transponders will be attached to regional beams to provide broadband multimediaand digital television services to operators scattered throughout East Asia.The remaining payload will be set aside to replace domestic capacity currentlyoffered by Koreasat 2, a satellite now more than ten years old.
"When we started thisprogram, Korean satellite operators told me it would be difficult to work withthe government side. However, both KT and ADD cooperated very well on manyissues," said Gwang Ju Seo, executive vice president of KT Corp.
"Koreasat 5 is on itsway to 113 degrees East...It will enable KT to continue providing high qualitydata and video service to our (various) customers in the Asia-Pacificregion."
Koreasat 5 was manufacturedby France's Alcatel Alenia Space and is based on their new-generation Spacebus4000 C1 spacecraft platform, which features an updated avionics system designedto accommodate larger satellites.
The contractor is alsosupplying Koreasat 5's ground system and launch and in-orbit commissioningsupport. The agreement was made in a 2003 agreement worth 148 million euros, orroughly $170 million using historical currency exchange rates.
"Alcatel Alenia Spaceis very proud to have delivered this satellite in time and with very goodperformance," said Jean-Marie Robert, a senior vice president at thecompany. "I would like to wish a very long life for this satellite."
The craft is the fourth inthe Koreasat series, following in the footsteps of commercial satelliteslaunched in the 1990's. Koreasat 1 was retired last year, while two otherscontinue to operate well.
Officials chose to skipover the name Koreasat 4 because the number "four" can representdeath in some Asian cultures, reports say.
In Korea, the Koreasatsatellite family is dubbed Mugunghwa, which in English is the Rose of Sharon -the national flower of South Korea.
Sea Launch has two morelaunches on its books to round out this year.
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