Irish ground station helped South Korea’s milestone rocket launch

29 Jun 2022

The Nuri rocket taking off from its launch pad at the Naro Space Center. Image: Korea Aerospace Research Institute

South Korea’s Nuri rocket launch was assisted by Contec, with its ground stations in Ireland, Sweden and Alaska providing data support.

South Korea has successfully launched a satellite using a domestically developed rocket for the first time. This was done with the help of private ground stations – including one in Ireland.

The Korean launch vehicle called Nuri was successfully launched from the Naro Space Center on 21 June. Private space companies participated in this test launch along with the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI).

One of these companies was Contec, a ground station operator and a spin-off from KARI that was established in 2015. The Korean company used its ground stations in Alaska, Sweden and Ireland to provide real-time support for the rocket’s payload satellite.

Two photos showing ground stations with people in front holding signs. The signs show the stations are from Contec, with the left station being in Ireland and the right being in Alaska.

Contec’s ground stations in Ireland and Alaska, which provided real-time support for the satellite launch. Image: Contec

The launch last week was conducted using a domestically developed rocket, making South Korea the 10th country in the world to place a satellite in orbit using its own technology, NBC reported.

Officials of the country’s science ministry said the satellite is carrying four smaller satellites that will be used for Earth observation and other missions.

Contec said its stations provided ground support through connection with the satellite data and processing for the launch mission.

Once the rocket reached the target altitude and separated its performance verification satellite, ground stations assisted by receiving crucial data such as the satellite’s status and location.

The satellite first transmitted signals to a station in Antarctica that is operated by KARI, with a second communication going to Contec’s ground station in Alaska.

Contec said the satellite is in a polar orbit, continuously transmitting data and getting orders from the company’s ground stations in Alaska and Europe.

“As a former researcher of KARI who participated in the Naro (KSLV-I) mission, it means a lot to support the new launch vehicle of Nuri with my own business,” Contec CEO Dr Sunghee Lee said.

“If private companies are given more opportunity to participate in the national space development project, growth of the space ecosystem in Korea will be able to accelerate even more.”

10 things you need to know direct to your inbox every weekday. Sign up for the Daily Brief, Silicon Republic’s digest of essential sci-tech news.

Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic