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Publication Date : 01-02-2013
On its third attempt Wednesday, Korea launched a rocket from home soil and put a scientific satellite in orbit. The next day, the satellite was found to function as intended. The Korea Aerospace Research Institute, the state-funded space program developer, and its scientists deserve a hearty congratulations from all Koreans on their success.
The success was all the more valuable because it came after two failed attempts ― in August 2009 when a technical hitch prevented the satellite from being put in orbit and June 2010 when the delivery vehicle KSLV-1 exploded after liftoff. Korea relied on Russia for the provision of the first stage of the Naro rocket, not only on the previous two occasions, but also this time.
All the previous efforts, however, did not go down the drain. As one scientist put it, the Korea Aerospace Research Institute learned much from the failures. The institute learned where to look when a rocket fails and gained the know-how that is needed for the development of sensors and other key parts.
The knowledge gained from the previous two attempts will undoubtedly prove to be of great help when the institute is carrying out its multi-year space programme, on which the Korean government is set to spend 1.54 trillion won. By 2021, it is scheduled to develop thrust engines on its own and launch the KSLV-2 rocket capable of carrying a 1.5-tonne satellite into outer space.
It should be worth pouring such a huge sum of money into the space program, given the number of satellites the nation needs to put in orbit and the effect of technologies to be developed on the nation’s industry. According to one estimate, the nation will have to launch one satellite a year from 2020 just to maintain the current number of satellites it is currently operating.
The development of technologies required for the space programme will certainly contribute to import substitutions and help boost related industries. True, an easier way for Korea to become a space powerhouse would be to rely on the United States, Russia and other countries for technology imports.
But those countries refuse to provide Korea with core technologies. That is the reason why the Korea Aerospace Research Institute has to develop them together with Korean corporations. Korea will have to fully fund its space program if it does not want to be left out in the race for space exploitation.