Korean defense contractors doubling down on liftoff of space economy

Song Gwang-sup and Minu Kim 2021. 9. 24. 12:27
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[Photo by Korea Aerospace Industries]
Korean defense contractors are speeding up grooming of space business in preparation for the era of space tourism and exploration being championed by U.S. Space X and other leading global players. Korea’s big three aerospace firms – Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI), Hanwha Aerospace and LIG Nex1 – have been doubling down on efforts to raise competitiveness in the space technology sector.

The global space economy is projected by Morgan Stanley to rocket from $350 billion in 2018 to $1.1 trillion in 2040.

The space business involving domestic defense contractors is largely divided into two areas: satellite services and launch vehicles to carry payloads to Earth orbit.

KAI, the largest aerospace company in Korea, is responsible for system design and main body development, manufacturing, assembly, testing and launch of the country’s next-generation medium-sized satellite to be launched in the first half of next year. KAI recently acquired a 20 percent stake in Meissa, a local satellite footage analysis company, to make a foray into the satellite space services market. In the satellite carrier sector, KAI oversees the assembly of the Korean launch vehicle Nuri (KSLV-II), which is scheduled to be launched on Oct. 20.

Hanwha Aerospace recently launched group-wide task force to strengthen its presence in the global space sector. Space Hub which was established to consolidate all space-relevant resources and technology of Hanwha Group affiliates under one roof is now being led by Kim Dong-kwan, the eldest son of Hanwha Group Chairman Kim Seung-youn. Hanwha Aerospace also acquired a stake in local satellite developer Satrec Initiative earlier this year. Hanwha Systems invested $300 million in British communications company OneWeb for 8.8 percent equity.

LIG Nex1 is focusing on developing a satellite-based navigation system as it is preparing to join a state project to build a local positioning system (KPS). Once the project succeeds, South Korea will become the world’s seventh country with its own global positioning system. The project aims to build an ultra-precision satellite-based navigation system by launching eight satellites that cover the Korean Peninsula.

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