Where six nations have gone before

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Where six nations have gone before

The Korea Space Launch Vehicle (KSLV-II), or Nuri, soared into space Tuesday afternoon from the Naro Space center in Goheung County, South Jeolla. The Ministry of Science and ICT and the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) announced that the second launch of the homegrown carrier rocket was successful. That means that Korea succeeded in putting a test satellite into an orbit 700 kilometers (435 miles) above the earth. With that success, Korea has shaken off the frustration people felt when it failed to put a satellite into an orbit after the launch of an earlier rocket last October.

With the successful launch, Korea has become the seventh country in the world to shoot a satellite into space on its own. A space power must have the ability to develop its own carrier rockets and launch them whenever the need arises, as well as the capacity to use information sent from satellites. Until now, Korea could not prove its capability to make launch vehicles on its own. In 2013, the country succeeded in shooting the Naro rocket into space, but had to rely on Russia for the engines of the first-stage of the rocket. The successful launch on Tuesday serves as a landmark in Korea’s journey to becoming a space power.

But it is just the beginning. Korea must enhance the capacity of locally-produced launch vehicles and develop a domestic space industry through repeated launches. The Ministry of Science and ICT plans four more launches of the rockets until 2027. A preliminary feasibility study on the development of next generation launch vehicles is also being conducted. If the project can be finished successfully, the government plans to send a landing module to the moon on the rocket by 2031.

In the past, big powers led space development for political and military purpose. Today civilian-led space development is in full swing. Space development has a far-reaching impact on the economy. That’s why each country tries to make investments in space development as a means of growth. The size of the global space industry reached 530 trillion won as of 2020, outpacing the global semiconductor market.

The Nuri’s success has provided a stepping stone for our space development. Over 300 local companies participated in developing the rocket. The time has come for the government to foster domestic space companies by transferring space technology to the civilian sector and conducting joint research with it. In the U.S., a contest for space development is being run by the private sector. We look forward to seeing leading local companies in space development as is the case with semiconductors and automobiles.
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