There’s some pretty startling and definitive comments being carried in the South Korean media, apparently uttered by Lee Cheol-woo of the ruling Saenuri Party after an intelligence briefing on Sunday.
It goes on:
A satellite weighing about 200 kilograms “is worthless as a satellite,” Lee Cheol-woo of the ruling Saenuri Party said, noting a proper satellite usually weighs at least 800 to 1,500 kilograms.
While there’s every possibility something got lost in translation or his understanding, if true it’s a poor assertion for the NIS to make.
It’s true that many satellites weigh a lot more than 200kgs.
Europe’s Sentinel-3 earth observation satellite weighs about 1,250kgs at launch, the U.S. GOES-R earth observation satellite weighs about 2,800kgs and South Korea’s own Arirang-5 satellite weighed 1,400kgs at launch.
But to write off anything lighter as “worthless” is wrong.
There’s a whole revolution going on around Cubesats right now that proves just what can be done in a small, light form-factor.
The image below of Hiroshima comes from Planet Labs, a San Francisco-based satellite imaging company that has been deploying a constellation of earth observation satellites called “Dove.”
The weight of each satellite? About 5kgs.
And ham radio satellites have been launched that allow earth-to-space-to-earth communications and weigh just over 1kg.
Now this isn’t meant to suggest what level or technology or sophistication might be inside whatever North Korea launched — but you can’t dismiss a satellite based on its weight.