Ways to develop our space industry
The global economic slump brought dark clouds over domestic industries. I propose the space industry as one of the strategies to break through the challenges facing our national economy.
For the last four decades, Korea developed using an economic model that requires energy and manpower on a large scale. But lately, Korea is struggling as emerging economies and China are catching up. In order to get ahead, we need to nurture technology-intensive industries. If successful in the small-quantity high-tech parts industries, we can secure world-class competitiveness and stay ahead of the game.
Space industry is the most notable small-quantity, high-quality parts industry. For example, a bearing used on earth is priced at some hundred dollars at most, but the bearing used in the space is 1,000 to 10,000 times more expensive.
The space club is the countries that have a satellite, a space center and a rocket launcher, and Korea became the 11th country to join the space club. However, in the global space industry, Korea’s share is only 0.5 percent, about $15 billion. Fortunately, the government increased related budgets from 2014, and this year, 746.4 billion won ($668.8 million) is to be invested in space development. Next-generation observation satellites and communication satellites are to be developed as well as new launcher technologies. Korea plans to launch a lunar orbiter by 2020.
The following policies are needed to develop the space industry’s small quantity, technology-intensive parts in a short period of time. The first is to allocate a realistic space industry-related budget. As of 2015, Korea’s space budget is 3 percent of the national R&D budget and 0.03 percent of GDP. It is about 10 percent of what Japan and France allocate. The budget needs to be at least tripled.
Second, domestic production of core strategic items needs to be promoted. By introducing “space-grade” certification, expensive key parts should be produced with indigenous technologies.
Third, space technology companies need to be designated. By linking companies and priority development items, small yet powerful companies should be nurtured. Drastic financial support and certification system will help the designated companies to thrive.
Ryoo Jang-soo, President of the Korea Association for Space Technology Promotion