South Korea launched Cheollian 2A satellite in Guiana on Dec. 5 by using Arianespace’s Ariane 5 launch vehicle. South Korea had to pay 70 billion won (US$63 million) to 80 billion won (US$72 million) to the French company for launching the 3.5-ton satellite. Arianespace currently accounts for more than 50% of the global space launch market.
These days, the United States, European countries and Russia are gradually shifting the focus of space development toward the private sector. “More than 100 venture firms as well as enterprises such as Elon Musk’s Space X and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin are working on satellite launch rockets,” said an industry source.
South Korea is planning to follow suit so that private-sector companies can produce launch vehicles and artificial satellites and venture firms can produce very small launch vehicles and satellites. At present, launch vehicle and satellite development in South Korea is led by the government and the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) while the private sector is playing a secondary role.
The Ministry of Science and ICT said space development led by the private sector should not be delayed as the local space industry has expanded to approximately 2.7 trillion won (US$2.4 billion) a year.
In the meantime, the KARI is planning to develop launch vehicles with local companies by 2021 and launch 1.5-ton satellites with them from 2023. In addition, it is planning to achieve lunar landing in 2030 and small satellite launch abroad in 2031.
2.5-ton Cheollian 1, which was launched in 2010, was based on French technology. However, its successor Cheollian 2A was designed, assembled, tested and transported based on South Korea’s own technology although foreign space weather sensors and key main body components were incorporated. 3.5-ton Cheollian 2B is scheduled to be developed next year and South Korea is likely to use its own weather sensors during the course.