Space, the next frontier

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Space, the next frontier

Kim Kyung-min
The author is a professor emeritus of Hangyang University on political and international affairs studies.  
The intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) North Korea claimed to have successfully tested last month reached a maximum altitude of 6,249 kilometers (3,905 miles), which has never been achieved by United States, Russia or China. The debris fell into the exclusive economic zone west of Hokkaido, spooking Japan.
North Korea’s missile capabilities have become sophisticated enough to put the entire U.S. mainland in danger. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has been supervising the advance. U.S. space development was spearheaded by John F. Kennedy, China’s by Mao Zedong and Japan’s by Yasuhiro Nakasone.
France, which launched South Korea’s first communications, ocean and meteorological satellite in 2010 for 70 billion won ($58 million), was led in its space initiative by President Charles de Gaulle. Space powerhouses of today have achieved their ranks on the back of strong leadership and determination of their chief executives.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) of the U.S. and the French space agency, the Centre Nationale d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES), currently lead the space race. Japan benchmarked NASA to establish Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) in 2003. Japan included space development as a national agenda item with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida commanding the program. The China National Space Administration (CNSA) with the full backing of President Xi Jinping pushed China as a formidable challenger to the U.S.
Neighboring countries are advanced in space development and are driving harder to become space powers. Where is South Korea? President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol promised to launch a space agency and his rival Lee Jae-myung vowed to place a space development commission under the presidential office. It is the first time presidential candidates promised a government agency devoted to a space program. The belated action comes amid consensus on the importance of space development.
Countries who have achieved a certain status in space development had spent colossal sums on space development and pushed with the programs after numerous failures. Only after multiple trials and errors can a country can place a satellite into the orbit through a self-developed rocket.
South Korea’s space program has been led by the Ministry of ICT and Science. The Korea Aerospace Research Institute. National Intelligence Service, Defense Ministry, Environment Ministry, and the Korea Metro-logical Administration all need satellites. A control tower is needed to coordinate the different needs of government offices. An agency under the president could be ideal.
South Korea has developed Nuri, a homegrown space launch vehicle, and is readying the second launch in June to put 1.5 ton satellite payload into low-earth orbit. It must hasten efforts to advance a rocket ability capable of flying a satellite weighing more than 4 tons into the orbit, which allows for the multiple launch of smaller satellites. It should advance the road-map to establish its own satellite-based positioning, navigating, and timing system by 2035. When it is connected to the U.S. GPS, the Korea-U.S. alliance could strengthen.
The space age is coming nearer. Korea must be confident with indigenous rocket launches and advanced artificial satellite technology to add traction to space industry. Korea must be able to deploy 2,000 small satellites in an age where entrepreneur Elon Musk is out to disrupt the telecommunications space with Starlink internet satellites so that Korean future generations can benefit from the riches of satellite and space-enhanced services.
Space is infinite in employment. Mid to long-range rockets can protect national security and satellites can service peaceful space projects such as watch over resources of the earth. The government must prioritize space development in the national agenda for the future generations.
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