June 12, 2009 11:21
The Naro Space Center, embodying Korea's aspirations to explore space, was completed Thursday in Goheung, South Jeolla Province. Construction began eight and a half years ago in December of 2000, and its completion means Korea has become only the 13th country in the world to possess its own space center. KSLV-I, the country's first space launch vehicle, will lift off from the Naro Space Center in July, carrying the Science and Technology Satellite-2. If the satellite successfully enters orbit, Korea will become the 10th country in the world to achieve such a feat on its own, and mark Korea's first step towards becoming an advanced country in terms of space exploration.
Hyundai Heavy Industries and other domestic companies built the space center, based on a Russian blueprint, experiencing many problems on the way. Russia sent Korea the blueprint for the launch pad -- 21,631 A3 pages worth of information -- in March, 2007, four months later than promised. A further eight months were then spent changing the blueprint so that it met Korean specifications.
Russian experts said it would take at least 23 months to build a launch pad, even if their own technicians did it. However, Korea built it in just 19 months, while also developing 80 percent of the related technology on its own. The Russians were so impressed with Korea's skill in building the launch pad that KBTM, a Russian design company, has asked Korea to join a consortium building a new launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazhakstan. Naro is the crowning result of the sweat and passion of our researchers and technicians who worked away from their families and without holidays.
Space is the final frontier for the human race. The world's major powers, including the United States, Russia, Europe, China, Japan and India have set out to explore and tap into outer space not only for national pride but also for economic benefits and national security. The space industry encompasses a wide array of high technologies, ranging from electronics, machinery and chemistry to materials, and therefore has far reaching impacts for a country. In the course of building the Naro Space Center, Korean companies were able to acquire valuable know-how in ultraclean, high pressure and cryogenic technologies. The first space rocket KSLV-1 named Naro cost W502.5 billion (US$1=W1,253) to build, but its economic benefits are estimated to be worth W3 trillion.
The task facing Korea is to become able to build a space launch vehicle using 100 percent of its own technologies. With the KSLV-1, Russian scientists built the core propulsion system. But Korea now plans to build another launch rocket by 2018 using its own technologies. There are also plans to launch a lunar exploration satellite in 2020 and a lunar landing vehicle in 2025. The Naro Space Center is the very starting point from which all Korea's dreams of space exploration are being realized.
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