South Korea will invest $593 million in the public-to-private rocket technology transfer

The South Korean government will begin transferring state-possessed space launch vehicle capabilities to domestic aerospace companies as early as next year in an effort to assist them in entering the rapidly expanding international space launch market. According to the Ministry of Science and ICT on Sept. 7, the government would invest 687 billion won ($593 million) between 2022 and 2027 to achieve its goals in this area.

According to the Ministry of Science and Technology, the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) — a state-run space technology creator that was instrumental in developing the nation’s first domestic space launch vehicle, the KSLV-2 — will be in charge of the public-to-private transfer of technology. The KSLV-2 rocket, also known as Nuri, is a 3-stage liquid-propellant rocket that is capable of launching a 1.5-ton satellite into low Earth orbit after a successful launch. The rocket is scheduled to launch from the Naro Space Center situated in Goheung, South Korea, for its first demo flight in October, which will be the country’s only launch site.

The transfer will be accomplished in a manner that allows KARI and selected firms to collaborate on collaborative development and launch experiments.

The vice-minister for science and technology, Yong Hong-taek, stated in a statement that the moment has come to shift away from state-led space launch vehicle development and toward one where the private sector performs a larger and more active role.

The strategy reaffirms the government’s commitment to expediting the transfer of space technologies from the public to the commercial sector. As SpaceX and other creative private enterprises play increasingly crucial roles in the international space industry, this announcement comes as a surprise. Since May, KARI and the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) have handed their satellite-manufacturing capabilities to a small number of key aerospace companies in the country, marking the first such transfer of this nature.

Even though the Science and Technology Ministry did not name the companies that would gain from the latest technology transfer, the most probable beneficiaries encompass Perigee Aerospace, Hanwha Aerospace, Innospace, and Korean Air.

Hanwha is a significant rocket engine developer in this country, and it contributed to the creation of the KSLV-2 by assembling the engine and supplying crucial components. Innospace is a hybrid spacecraft firm, and Perigee is working on a methane-propelled smallsat launcher. Seoul-based Korea Air, the country’s largest airline, is exploring methods to launch tiny satellites from the Boeing 747-400 cargo planes, in a similar manner to how Virgin Orbit places satellites into orbit for customers.

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