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What S.Korea needs to do to further develop space industry

What S.Korea needs to do to further develop space industry

Posted February. 01, 2013 04:42,   


South Korea’s scientific satellite has made its first contact with the ground station at the Satellite Technology Research Center of the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, or KAIST.

The success in putting the satellite into orbit has marked the completion of the country`s first satellite project, and speculation is growing over if domestic scientists can secure all of the technologies needed to deploy a satellite into orbit.

Astronomers say the level of South Korea’s space technology is about 84 percent of global powerhouses in the field. With bold monetary and resource investment, however, the country is expected to independently develop a space rocket two or three years before 2021, the target year for the development.

○ Satellite contacts ground station twice

The satellite research center said the satellite first contacted the ground station at 3:28 a.m. Thursday and again at 5:11 a.m., both of which were successful, with the center director saying, “We analyzed the materials from the satellite and verified that everything was normal.”

The satellite`s tasks include detecting the sun`s movement and conducting infrared imaging of the earth’s surface while completing 14 revolutions a day at an altitude of 300 to 1,500 kilometers.

○ A long way to go

Korea launched its rocket project in 2010 to deploy a 1.5 ton-satellite into orbit at altitudes of 600 to 800 kilometers by 2021. Experts say the success of the Naro project will accelerate development so that Korea can put a satellite into orbit before the target year. Park Tae-hak, the head of the satellite project, said, “Since President-elect Park Geun-hye has talked of accelerating the project, we are reviewing the plan.”

The National Research Foundation in Seoul said in a 2009 report that a successful rocket program will mean a higher level of domestic space technology from 46.3 percent to 83.4 percent compared to other space technology powerhouses based on 252 key factors in 12 fields related to rocket technology.

Cho Kwang-rae, the director of the launch vehicle research center at the Korea Aerospace Research Institute, said, “When it comes to technologies for liquid rocket engines, our technological level is still only about 60 percent of those of advanced countries. More efforts are needed for the development.”

South Korea’s space technology is even said to be behind that of North Korea. Tak Min-je, a aerospace engineering professor at KAIST, said, “South Korea’s technology for liquid engines for the first-stage rocket is about seven to 10 years behind North Korea`s.”

○ More investment and researchers needed

According to space experts, a major obstacle for South Korea to securing all of the technologies for a space rocket is lack of researchers. The government said it will try to foster up to 1,000 researchers but the country has just 500, including 200 who work for the Naro project and 300 in the private sector. Capital investment has been postponed due to lack of funds. The required amount for the first stage of the rocket project (2010-2014) was an estimated 491.9 billion won (452 million U.S. dollars), but just 210 billion won (193 million dollars) has been executed.

Lee Chang-jin, an aerospace engineering professor at Konkuk University, said, “The government should come up with a plan first. Then, industry and academia will begin doing their jobs to meet the need.”