Strenuous efforts needed to become global aerospace powerhouse
South Korea reached a brilliant achievement in its aerospace history Thursday, by launching a domestically developed space rocket to its targeted altitude. But it was an "incomplete success" as the launch vehicle failed to place a dummy satellite into orbit. Nuri, or the Korean Satellite Launch Vehicle II (KSLV II), blasted off from the Naro Space Center in Goheung off the southern coast and flew to an altitude of 700 kilometers.
According to the Ministry of Science and ICT, the rocket's first and second stages separated appropriately. But the third stage's engine burned out 46 seconds earlier than designed, thus failing to reach the speed of 7.5 kilometers per second that would give the payload enough momentum to enter orbit. South Korea plans to test-launch another satellite launch vehicle in May next year.
In many senses, the launch was more than a "half success" as it moved the country a step closer to ranking among the world aerospace powerhouses, and boosted its national prestige. There is no need to be disappointed, given the less than 30 percent average success rate for initial attempts to launch satellites. We hope the government and relevant sectors will push ahead with their efforts toward making the nation an aerospace power, learning a lesson from the partial success.
President Moon Jae-in in a statement after watching the liftoff said the test was an "excellent achievement" and expressed hope that the country will be able to see a perfect success in the second Nuri test set for May 2022. "Once we sharpen our technological prowess we can secure our own independent aerospace transport capability, opening a new era in the sector," Moon said.
The KSLV I, jointly developed with Russia, was successfully launched in 2013 after the setbacks of four failures and postponements. Given this, the recent test proves the nation's technology has been upgraded phenomenally. Now a complete success seems to be in the offing. Including the second test, the Naro Space Center plans five more launches by the year 2027. Some 300 companies including the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) and more than 1,000 people participated in the project.
The country's much-touted drive toward a locally developed space rocket will have far-flung benefits for diverse industries ― aerospace, electronics, communications and materials ― as well as military applications. Korea will be able to launch its own satellites without depending on other countries, as it is set to launch around 100 satellites over the next decade. Domestic telecommunications companies preparing for the launch of 6G satellite communications will be able to boost their competitiveness in the global market.
The government should expand assistances to nurture the aerospace industry. First of all, it needs to increase the relevant state budget considerably as it now stands at only one third that of Japan. There should be more support to nurture and provide human resources. We urge the Moon Jae-in administration to consider setting up an independent institute that will be in charge of overall control and management of aerospace development and the relevant industries.