The sky of the Korean universe is wide open

2022. 6. 28. 20:00
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Korea is also preparing a follow-up project, a lunar lander, targeting 2031. As a follow up, a homegrown lunar orbiter named "Danuri" will be launched in the United States this August.

Lee Jong-ho

The author is minister of science and ICT.

The world witnessed the successful flight of the Korean Space Launch Vehicle-II, known as Nuri, on June 21, 2022. Nuri blasted off 700 kilometers (435 miles) into space from the Naro Space Center and finally landed into the target orbit. Shouts and tears of joy resounded in the center and we knew that a 13-year-long journey finally bore fruit. When a signal was successfully received at the ground station, 42 minutes after the launch, it proved again that our very first satellite carried by our homegrown rocket safely settled into the target orbit. The sky of the Korean universe is now wide open.

South Korea is a latecomer to the global space development race, having started to ramp up efforts in rocket development since the 1990s. In 2013, Korea successfully launched its first homegrown rocket, known as Naro, after the previous two launch attempts that failed in 2009 and 2010. Today’s success would never have happened if Korea had aborted its plan to develop Nuri citing the unsuccessful Naro’s first launch attempt in 2009.

The success of space vehicle development can never be predicted until the last minute since a myriad of variables come into play. The only thing the government could do was to set a goal, continuously invest and support, and stay patient. After decades-long patience, Korea finally won the strategic space technology that was hardly shared by other space superpowers. This was earned only by our scientists’ unwavering perseverance and passion. I would like to take this opportunity to warmly applaud our space heroes for their hard work.

The success of Nuri launch is now taking us a step closer to a space sovereign nation. Unlike the past where we had to use foreign rockets to put our satellites into orbit, we can now put over a one-ton satellite into the outer space with our own rocket. Korea became the seventh country in the world that can launch its homegrown space vehicle on its own soil anytime it wants. This means Korea now has open access to space and Korea’s stage is going beyond the Earth. In addition, space technology development experiences shared between 300 commercial businesses and government research teams from research institutes will serve as a robust foundation to hold up our nation to become a leading country in space.

So let us enjoy every minute of Nuri’s success and look forward to the brave new future. Korea is ready to create much greater achievements. As a start, the Nuri development technology will soon be transferred to the private sector and four more launches are expected. These additional launch attempts will help increase technology’s reliability and practicability. I am looking forward to seeing transferee companies to grow into specialized launch service providers just as SpaceX that leads the space market after having received the rocket technology from NASA. Korea is also preparing a follow-up project, a lunar lander, targeting 2031. As a follow up, a homegrown lunar orbiter named “Danuri” will be launched in the United States this August. And a space industry cluster will be soon designated to prepare for the New Space era led by the private sector.

Meanwhile, late this year, the government will release the fourth Framework for Space Development and Promotion, which will map out a five-year plan for space development. Since realizing the dream takes tireless efforts and patience, Korea will continue to invest and roll out concrete visions until our dream comes true. Nuri’s success will be the first signal to show that Korea is leaping toward the next global space leading nation.

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