Staff Reporter, The Korea Times
Korea’s ambitious plan to put a satellite into the lunar orbit by 2020 could be troubled by difficulties in rocket development.
The country wants to launch a satellite into orbit from its brand new spaceport in Goheung, South Jeolla Province next summer.
But even if the launch of the Korea Space Launch Vehicle-1 (KSLV-1) is a success, the Naro Space Center won’t be used again until 2017, when Korea plans to have its KSLV-2 locked and loaded.
The development of the KSLV-2 is the ultimate challenge for Korea as the government intends to localize the rocket.
Scientists and engineers at the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) developed the upper part of the KSLV-1 that is designed to hold a satellite, but Russia’s Khrunichev State Space Science and Production Center is providing the lower assembly of the rocket that contains the liquid-fuel propulsion system.
Countries such as the United States and Russia strictly prohibit the export of rocket propulsion technologies, due to the potential in military use, which means that the Koreans will have to figure out the hard parts themselves.
However, it seems that local scientists and policymakers have yet to agree on what the KSLV-2 should look like.
A Seoul official told The Korea Times that the government plans to spend around 22 billion won (about $15 million) next year to initiate the development of the KSLV-2, although the direction and pace of the project will be greatly effected by the results of the KSLV-1 launch.
``Most of the money will be used to create a blueprint for KSLV-2’s rocket system, which includes establishing its overall capabilities, mission and requirements for components,’’ said the official.
``Developing the liquid-fuel rocket engine will obviously be the biggest challenge, as it is the most crucial step of the project in which we won’t be getting any help. However, there is the possibility that we could partner with companies in other countries for the development of other parts,’’ he said.
There is a wide-ranging debate over how the KSLV-2, designed to support a payload of 1.5 tons, should be used. Some experts say it could be effectively used to launch multi-purpose low-orbit satellites, but the government seems to have bigger plans in mind, such as using the rocket for lunar exploration projects.
``If we have a successful launch in June, the development project for KSLV-2 could be started as early as July or August, and then we could have a clearly discussions about the purpose of the new rocket,’’ the official said.
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