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[Newsletter] It's now an era of space trips...Why not do space business in Jeju?

We tend to underestimate our capacity in many moments in life. As a result, we lose the chance to grow as we set our limitations far lower than they really are. This is not only limited to individuals. It also applies to groups, societies, or even countries. Now, meet CONTEC, a company taking the lead in breaking out of the shell.


Researcher meets his dream in Jeju


The year 2013 was a milestone moment in Korea’s space history, as Naro-1, the first KSLV (Korea Space Launch Vehicle)-1 and Science and Technology Satellite-2, was successfully launched, opening the space era in the Korean peninsula. It was a transition point where we learned that space is not that far away from us, while we’d been thinking that launching rockets and satellites was only for advanced countries.


Eight years have passed since then, and now people who are setting up specific plans to advance into the universe are gathering in Jeju Island, especially at a particular place - where? CONTEC.


“When Naro-1 was launched in 2013, I was one of the initial members at the Naro Space Center of KARI (Korea Aerospace Research Institute) in charge of designing, developing, and operating a ground system that receives and processes data from Naro-1. I was dispatched to KARI's Jeju Tracking Station in 2007 for the Naro-1 project, where I stayed for 7 years, making happy memories. When I returned to the KARI headquarters after the mission, I was in charge of tasks related to satellites. Thanks to this, I could build experience in designing and operating ground stations for satellite operations. And while I was working as a visiting researcher at a university in Canada, I could also experience designing and developing a communication system of satellite CubeSat (micro-sized satellite).”


CEO Lee Sung-Hee was the elite of the elites who worked for 16 years at KARI. It was January 2015 when he established CONTEC, with a will to utilize his know-how in a broader scope and run an exclusive business of his own.


Space industry by our side


“So many industries are using satellite information today. Agriculture, civil engineering, transportation, disaster prevention, and urban development – the representative primary industries – now need more accurate and objective data to plan corporate management more efficiently while making people’s lives more convenient. Indeed, there are still various, traditional needs related to security from organizations such as the defense ministry and the National Intelligence Service.” The issue lies in processing data used in such diverse fields into the format the customers want.


A majority of data from satellites are satellite images of Earth. CONTEC categorizes the service that receives, processes, and analyzes such satellite images into three levels when working with customers: level 1 sends the original data from the satellite to customers without any editing, level 2 removes all types of noise mixed in the original image and adjusts geolocation’s margin of error for clearer and more accurate images and data, and level 3 observes changes occurring in certain spots and analyzes it with deep learning analysis, and provides it with data the customer wants. And CONTEC is the only private company that provides these three types of service at the same time. Also, it is the only space company in Asia that operates a physical ground station and platform while being the total provider of all those services.


“To be honest, the Korean peninsula is not in a geologically advantageous location for a country that receives data from mid-latitude satellites quite often. The North Pole or Antarctica are commercially better as they have more contact with the satellites. However, the Korean peninsula also has an advantage in that it is in a good location to receive and send commands to satellites that pass East Asia. Customers with a satellite are using services provided by the Jeju ground station.”


Then, how valuable is Jeju to him?


ground station receiving signals from satellites


“It’s no longer an era where you can’t go to space due to lack of technology.
Even individuals began to contest ideas and have a space trip.
And we should also embark on such a journey to space."


Space camp, a cradle for great dreams


“Except Hallasan Mountain, there is barely any obstacle that interferes with satellite signals. We can exchange signals right after the satellite situates above the horizon thanks to the strict height restriction of buildings. Communication efficiency is also great with a clear line of sight (LOS) for communication between satellites and the ground station. The most attractive thing above all is that Jeju ocean has the best conditions to be used as a private launching site.


“In fact, one person from the German space industry questioned why space businesses aren’t facilitated in Jeju,” said Lee Sung-Hee, the CEO. He added that one private rocket launch company in Scotland cooperates with CONTEC to target the Asian market and suggested setting up a private launch site in Jeju together. And Jeju already knew of such potential.


“Jeju Island was our first investor when we established the ground station in 2019. Thanks to the financial support, the station could grow to have 700 passes (a period in which a satellite or other spacecraft is available for communication with a particular ground station) per month. And we could also set up a plan to launch a satellite we made onto the orbit in early 2024.” CEO Lee Sung-Hee said that his ultimate goal is to make Jeju the no.1 space industry cluster in Korea and even in Asia. Is it a goal too high? CEO Lee made it clear it isn’t. He took Toulouse in French as an example where it only has a 500 thousand population but is the space hub where about 800 space companies are doing business and R&D.


“Doing productive professions in Jeju Island requires more logistic cost. However, things are different for tech industries that are based on IT. If you only have good technologies and a concrete business model based upon them, Jeju will be the perfect place to take on new challenges.”


“However, you must comb through what programs Jeju Island provides in the field you want to do business in before you begin,” emphasized CEO Lee Sung-Hee. He also did not forget the advice that you should look closely to see if there are any talents you are looking for in Jeju.


“Our next year’s plan is to expand our services for more various customers by building ground stations in seven countries across the world, including Alaska, Dubai, and Finland. Of course, the Jeju ground station will be at the center. It will also be Jeju Island where we twin with the Euro Space Center in Belgium and run a space camp for teens and young adults.”


As it is the most urgent task to make more people have an interest in space, CEO Lee Sung-Hee is making various advertisements through several media outlets. He hopes more companies come to gather in Jeju, centering around CONTEC and dream of space together.


“It’s no longer an era where you can’t go to space due to lack of technology. Even individuals began to contest ideas and have a space trip. And we should also embark on such a journey to space. Through the private, commercial launch site which will be perhaps the first in Asia and second in the world, we must discover more possibilities in outer space.”


To make Jeju the hub of the space industry, CEO Lee Sung-Hee and members of CONTEC know that it is essential for CONTEC to be an exemplary case. Their dreams and goals have been growing exponentially at a rate that we cannot measure with daily units – under the blue, clear sky of Jeju.

Lee Sung-Hee, CEO of CONTEC