South Korea Initiates EO Constellation with NEONSAT-1 Launch

Image: Rocket Lab

South Korea took the initial steps toward building out its domestic EO capability on Tuesday with the launch of NEONSAT-1, the first in a planned 11-sat constellation.

The 100-kg small sat launched aboard a Rocket Lab Electron rocket from the Mahia spaceport in New Zealand.

  • South Korea plans to launch five more sats each in 2026 and 2027, respectively, using its domestic Nuri rocket, assuming ITAR-free parts can be applied.
  • Industry, academia, and research have joined forces for the project, bringing together the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI), and the Satellite Technology Research Center (SaTReC).
  • Work on the constellation began in May 2020 and will reportedly cost ~₩230B ($170M) when all is said and done in July 2027.

Always buzzing just like: NEONSAT-1, once completed, will use a high-resolution camera paired with AI technology for near-real time natural disaster monitoring. 

It will snap images of the Korean peninsula three times a day at a 4m resolution for color photos and 1m resolution for black and white.

Join the army: Rocket Lab dubbed the launch “Beginning of The Swarm” (BTS), sharing initials with the K-pop group and signaling the start of the constellation.

Hitching a ride on the launch was NASA’s Advanced Composite Solar Sail System (ACS3), a tech demo for a structure that aims to use the pressure of sunlight for propulsion.

Up next: Upon the launch of NEONSAT-1 on Tuesday, Young-bin Yoon, a professor of aerospace engineering at Seoul National University, was announced as the first director of the Korea Aerospace Administration (KASA), which will be inaugurated next month.

  • Yoon is the director of the Next Generation Space Propulsion Research Center, which is conducting research on liquid rocket engines.
  • John Lee, who spent nearly three decades in senior roles at NASA, NOAA, and the White House, was also named vice administrator of the space agency.
Related Stories

International Partnerships Complicate Space Registry, State Says

The US needs to communicate better with both the private sector and international partners about objects in orbit as space becomes more global, a State Department official said Thursday.


Exclusive: Pixxel, Enabled Intelligence Team Up

Pixxel and Enabled Intelligence are announcing a new partnership under which the data labeling startup will annotate the space company’s hyperspectral imagery. 


EO Could Add 3.8T to Global GDP—If Industry Embraces It

The analysis and use of EO data could add $700B each year to the global economy by 2030, up from $266B today.


Artemis Accords Signatories to Meet This Month in Canada

Artemis Accords signatories will meet in Montreal this month to discuss best practices and guidelines for responsible and sustainable space exploration.