For example, Taiwan has worked for years with Astrium in developing its Formosat series of satellites, with the goal of creating a domestic industrial capacity and associated service industry. After a decade spent acquiring engineering expertise through international collaboration, the country's new 525-kg Formosat-5 will carry a Taiwan-built optical instrument capable of 2-meter resolution in black-and-white and 4 meters in multi-spectral over a 24-km swath. Formosat-5 is slated to launch in 2015, according to Taiwan National Space Organization officials, with a follow-on spacecraft planned for the same orbit, albeit in a different ground track to effect daily revisit time and global coverage.
Similarly, the Korea Aerospace Research Institute has spent almost two decades developing the Korean Multipurpose Satellite (Kompsat) series, starting with a U.S. satellite bus designed by TRW and using German optical instruments. The latest generation of the Earth-observation satellite, Kompsat-3, carries a camera built by Astrium Satellites that is capable of 70-cm panchromatic and 2.8-meter multispectral resolution. A follow-on Kompsat-3A slated to launch in September on a Dnepr rocket was also built with Astrium assistance, featuring 55-cm panchromatic and 2.2-meter multispectral resolution and an infrared camera.
“It's very high-tech, even though they are one step behind the European and American systems in terms of technology,” Campenon says.
For now, countries like South Korea and Taiwan pose little threat to established commercial remote-sensing providers, though this is already starting to change. While both countries had negotiated agreements with Astrium Services to market imagery produced by Kompsat and Formosat satellites, South Korea recently switched to small-satellite manufacturer and local data distributor Satrec Initiative, and Campenon says Taiwan may do something similar.
Satrec is also working with the UAE to develop the DubaiSat series of spacecraft. Abu Dhabi is one of several Middle Eastern capitals investing in space capabilities as a response to growing instability in the region, a perceived threat from Iran and desire to foster a domestic aerospace and defense industry (see page 31). In 2009 UAE launched the 200-kg DubaiSat-1 for the Emirates Institution for Advanced Science and Technology, and UAE engineers have since taken the lead in designing a follow-on spacecraft with Satrec, dubbed DubaiSat-2, which will offer 1-meter panchromatic resolution and 4-meter multispectral with a 12.2-km swath.
The UAE air force is also shopping for a high-resolution imaging satellite among U.S. and European suppliers that according to industry sources, include Lockheed Martin, a team comprising Astrium and Thales, and DigitalGlobe, which could potentially furnish the spare ultra-high-resolution GeoEye-2 satellite it acquired in the January takeover of chief U.S. rival GeoEye.
DigitalGlobe spokesman Robert Keosheyan said Feb. 7 the company received an unsolicited inbound expression of interest from the UAE and is in the process of considering whether to engage in discussions.
Other countries in line to loft high-resolution spacecraft include Japan, where Tokyo-based NEC expects to orbit its 300-kg Advanced Satellite with New System for Observation (Asnaro) spacecraft atop a Dnepr rocket this year. Based on the modular NX-300L bus, Asnaro is advertised as offering less than 50-cm panchromatic and 2-meter multispectral resolution at 500-km altitude across a 10-km swath. NEC says a SAR observation satellite and wide-coverage optical observation spacecraft are also planned, forming an Asnaro constellation offering a range of Earth observation services.