(By Peter B. de Selding | Feb. 26, 2014, PARIS) — The high-resolution imaging radar for South Korea’s Kompsat-6 Earth observation satellite will be built by LIG Nex1 Co. Ltd. of Korea and Airbus Defence and Space’s German arm under a contract announced Feb. 26.
The contract follows the August 2013 launch of the Kompsat-5 radar Earth observation satellite, whose imaging sensor was provided by Airbus rival Thales Alenia Space of Italy. Germany and Italy both have national radar reconnaissance programs that have allowed their industry to compete against Canada’s MDA Corp., among others, for export business.
Seoul-based LIG Nex1 Co., a division of LG Group and a major Korean defense contractor, will use the Kompsat-6 work “to enter into a long-term cooperation with Airbus Defence and Space in the domain of spaceborne radar,” LIG Nex1 Chief Executive Lee Hyo-koo said in a statement announcing the contract. “LIG Nex1 is pround to have won the [Kompsat-6] sensor contract together with our subcontractor Airbus Defence and Space.”
South Korea has one of the world’s most dynamic national space programs. It is developing both optical and radar Earth observation capabilities as well as meteorological satellite expertise. Airbus Defence and Space in 2013 won a contract to provide an ocean-color imager for Korea’s GEO-Kompsat 2B geostationary-orbiting satellite, scheduled for launch in 2019.
Airbus said Kompsat-6’s radar imager would be able to distinguish objects that are less than 1 meter in diameter in its SpotLight mode. Korean authorities in the past have said they plan to launch the satellite in 2019 as a replacement and successor to Kompsat-5.
Michael Menking, head of Airbus Space Systems’ Earth Observation, Navigation and Science division, said the win in Korea came “in the face of stiff competition. This will pave the way for further export successes in the fields of radar instruments and radar satellites.”
Airbus and Thales Alenia Space are both bidding to build radar reconnaissance satellite sensors for the Russian government.