Successful launch of Dnepr with KOMPSat-3A!

On March 25 (UTC), 2015, International Space Company (ISC) Kosmotras conducted successful launch of Dnepr launch vehicle with KOMPSat-3A Earth imaging satellite into a sun-synchronous orbit from Dombarovsky Missile Range in Russia.

The major goal of the South Korean KOMPSat-3A (Korean Multi-purpose Satellite 3A) program is to have an earth observation satellite capable to obtain infrared and high-resolution electro-optical images for GIS (Geographical Information Systems) applications in environmental, agricultural and oceanographic sciences as well as natural disasters forecasting.

Kompsat-3 in orbit & its imagery of Olympic Stadium in Seoul. Credit: KARI
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KARI logo

KOMPSat-3A spacecraft, weighting near 1000 kilograms, was developed by Korean Aerospace Research Institute (KARI). Its two imaging payloads were made with technical support from Airbus Defence and Space and German Aerospace Center (DLR). Expected operational lifetime for the satellite is 4 years.

South Korea currently operates KOMPSat-5 satellite, also launched aboard Dnepr rocket, in summer 2013, and KOMPSat-3 spacecraft orbited atop Japanese H-IIA launcher in 2012.

Last month KARI awarded Arianespace with a contract to provide launch services for its two satellites, GEO-KOMPSat-2A and GEO-KOMPSat-2B. They are expected to be launched aboard Ariane 5 launchers in May 2018 and March 2019 from the Guiana Space Center. These KARI-built geostationary orbited spacecraft will weigh about 3,500 kg each. They will primarily perform meteorological observation and space weather monitoring (GK2A), and ocean and Earth environmental monitoring (GK2B) tasks.

"Arianespace is extremely proud of its selection by the Korean space agency, KARI. Our last launch for KARI occurred in 2010. Now, we have been chosen again by KARI to launch these two impressive meteorological observation missions. Contributing to Korean space achievements is a great honor for Arianespace." Arianespace Chairman and CEO Stéphane Israël

Few words about the launch vehicle. Dnepr is a converted R-36 intercontinental ballistic missile – called the SS-18 'Satan' by NATO – made by Yuzhnoye State Design Office and Yuzhmash plant in Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine. Having such history, it is not surprisingly that future of the whole Dnepr program was under serious doubts due to the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

Despite rumours of Dnepr program's close end, ISC Kosmotras, the launch vehicle operator, issued last month a press-release where showed its launch manifest for the next two years. The manifest includes at least 5 launches of Dnepr rocket in 2016-2017. The next Dnepr mission is scheduled for October 2015 with two satellites for the US, Virginia-based satellite services operator Iridium Communications.

Silo-launched Dnepr lifts-off CryoSat-2 for ESA in April 2010. Credit: Roskosmos
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