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South Korea, Japan to Plus-Up Position, Navigation, and Timing Satellite Systems

By | June 18, 2019
Photo: Japanese Government

Photo: Japanese Government

The governments of South Korea and Japan are each in the midst of building up their respective position, navigation and timing (PNT) satellite constellations to provide more accurate service to their militaries and civilian users, officials said June 11.

Many countries – to include the United States, Russia and others – have built up their own PNT capabilities, and the Republic of Korea has decided it’s time to do the same, said Lt. Col. Yun Kyong Sung, who serves as the Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Information (C4I) Interoperability Officer for the ROK.

Speaking Tuesday at the SMI Group’s first annual Military Space USA conference in Los Angeles, Yun said the goal is to develop a capability to service the Korean peninsula by 2034. It will include a Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) supplementary signal, a unique Korea Positioning Signal (KPS) and a Satellite Based Augmentation System (SBAS) via seven satellites – three Geosynchronous Orbit (GEO) systems and four elliptical-inclined geosynchronous-orbit (EISGO) systems.

The project is being driven by the Korean Ministry of Science and ICT, with support by the Ministry of National Defense, Yun said.

The ROK is also planning additions to its Earth Observation (EO) platforms. It has been developing multi-purpose satellites equipped with electro-optical and infrared technologies under the name KOMPSAT – for Korea Multi-Purpose Satellite – since 1994, with five systems launched between 1999 and 2013.

The sixth and seventh KOMPSAT systems are now scheduled to be launched in 2020 and 2021, Yun said. Together with the new KPS platforms, these new satellites will help provide “a holistic approach to space” for the Asian nation, he added.

Meanwhile, Japan is also planning to boost its sovereign PNT capabilities. Hirohusa Mori, director of the Japanese Ministry of Defense’s National Space Policy Secretariat, said at the conference his country is moving forward with plans to deploy three additional systems by 2023 as part of the Quasi Zenith Satellite System (QZSS).

The QZSS system operates on the same frequency band as GPS, he noted. The four initial satellites were launched between 2010 and 2017 aboard three Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) H-IIA rockets, and were declared operational in November 2018, he added. They consist of one GEO stationed satellite and three systems operating in a highly inclined, slightly elliptical GEO orbit, which allows for one of those three systems to be constantly operating above Japan at any given moment, Mori said.

The QZSS system has three major functions, he noted. It is intended to be GPS complementary, while using augmented GNSS technologies to provide more accurate positioning data that could be used by new businesses for efforts such as autonomous driving, Mori said. The third function is for the system to be used as a messaging service for disaster or crisis reports, he added.