South Korea has announced plans to build a Korean Positioning System (KPS), consisting of seven satellites, by 2034.
KPS is being built in order to augment and complement existing global systems such as the U.S. Global Positioning System (GPS) nationally and regionally, and to create a strategically autonomous positioning, navigation, and timing (PNT) capability in case of national security emergencies on the Korean Peninsula.
Regional geopolitical competition between South Korea and Japan, and South Korea and China, is also likely to be a rationale behind the push to fund and build KPS.
Japan is building its own PNT system called the Quasi Zenith Satellite System (QZSS) consisting of four Michibiki satellites in geostationary orbit (GEO). QZSS, much like the intention behind KPS, is intended to augment existing global PNT systems such as GPS and Russia’s GLONASS, as well as to provide autonomous satellite navigation services in the event of a national emergency.
China is also building its own space-based PNT system, called the BeiDou Navigation Satellite System (BDS), but unlike KPS and QZSS is being built as a global rival to the constellations operated by the United States (GPS), Russia (GLONASS), and the European Union (Galileo). Upon completion, BeiDou will consist of 35 satellites upon completion, with 22 satellites currently operational.
The South Korean Ministry of Science and Information Communications Technology (ICT) is implementing the KPS initiative, with a milestone meeting of its space committee to take place on 5 February, 2018, to approve the multi-year rollout of the system.
According to Korean press reports, the KPS rollout will consist of the development of a ground test site by 2021; the development of indigenous satellite navigation technologies by 2022; and the development of KPS satellites by 2024, with the completion of the seven satellite KPS – to include four GEO satellites – by 2034.
The aim is to provide highly precise and autonomous PNT services within a 1,000 kilometer radius of Seoul, the South Korean capital city in the event of a national security emergency where access to foreign PNT capabilities are denied or unreliable.
“As the GPS becomes a necessity in everyday life, broken signals for any reason can set off a nationwide chaos,” said an at the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI), quoted in Business Korea. “Advanced nations are trying to secure strong GPS capabilities by sending up satellites to prevent a chaos that can take place while they depend on other nations’ satellites,” the KARI official added.
In peacetime, KPS will augment and complement foreign PNT services, with the additional advantage of making PNT more accurate and reliable for a range of civil and commercial activities.
The KPS programme is estimated to cost 2.5 trillion Won, approximately U.S.$2.3 billion.