Korea's Own Space Rocket a Distant Dream

      May 25, 2012 13:16

      Korea's goal of developing its own space rocket by 2018 looks ever more likely to come true. At a seminar on May 28, 2009 just three months before Korea attempted the first launch of the Naro space rocket, Park Jeong-joo, the then head of the space rocket program at the Korea Aerospace Research Institute, said, "We will begin developing a Korean-made space launch vehicle and launch it in 2018."

      The rocket would be 45 m long, weigh 200 tons and carry a 1.5-ton satellite. It was to consist of three stages with a booster twice as strong as the Naro's, whose cargo was a 100 kg science satellite. The developmental budget was set at W1.55 trillion (US$1=W1,180), or about three times more what was spent to develop the Naro.

      But after two consecutive failures to launch the Naro, the National Assembly drastically cut the budget and the launch was pushed to 2021.

      Now experts are questioning whether even that deadline can be met. It all depends on who makes the rocket. According to the government's calculation, around 1,000 experts are needed to develop it, but KARI has only around 400 working on the project.

      Kim Chang-kyung, a deputy minister at the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology said in a National Assembly hearing in November last year that his ministry believes it is impossible for Korea to develop a home-grown rocket with the existing number of experts.

      The ministry plans to rope in experts from private businesses and academics to fill the gap. But under the present setup, which is dominated by KARI, there is a scarcity of rocket experts outside the institute.

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