By Kim Jung-hwan
South Korean government plans to accelerate the stalled 1 trillion won ($888 million) project to have five home-grown reconnaissance satellites in space by 2021 to up its surveillance and sovereign defense capability against North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats.
The project is expected to pave the way for domestic defense equipment manufacturers to broaden their business portfolio beyond conventional weapons to space development.
A spy satellite is pivotal to South Korea’s establishment of the so-called Kill Chain system aimed at owning sovereign capabilities to preemptively detect and destroy North Korean mass-destruction weapons.
According to the defense industry on Wednesday, the nation’s Ministry of Defense will hold a committee meeting to approve the so-called 425 Project to construct five 800-kilometer military reconnaissance satellites, which had been stalled due to disagreements among government agencies.
The government plans to put out a public notice in July and start receiving procurement bids in September with an aim to sign a final contract by the end of this year. A company that procures the order will build the satellites in cooperation with the Agency for Defense Development (ADD) and Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI). Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) and Satrec Initiative Co. are dubbed as strong candidates as they already have satellite-making technologies. KAI has been trying to expand its business area beyond its core aircrafts manufacturing to military and multi-purpose satellites.
The government hopes to operate four satellites equipped with high-performing Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) and one with electro-optical equipment by 2021. They would have to ensure a ground resolution of between 0.3 to 0.5 meters, a capacity advanced enough to identify whether a vehicle on a road is a sedan or a truck.