The Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) has recently released a report on major research and development plans that it will carry out in 2020.
According to the report, Korea is expected to make a big leap in the commercial, military and scientific satellite sectors this year. First, the Chollian 2B, a geostationary satellite, will be launched in February. If the satellite is successfully launched, Korea will have two geostationary satellites in addition to the existing Chollian 2A.
The Chollian 2B, which weighs 3.5 tons, will carry out weather, ocean and environmental monitoring. In particular, it is expected to play a crucial role in identifying the paths of fine dust blowing to the Korean Peninsula and responding to climate change.
In the second half of the year, Korea’s first 500 kg-class next-generation satellite will be launched. This satellite will become the standard for Korea's next-generation mid-sized satellites. A satellite weighing 500 kg can carry various devices needed to provide commercial services. Demand for services based on mid-size satellites is growing in emerging countries.
In the new year, the government will accelerate production of Multipurpose Satellite 6, which will succeed Arirang 5, and Multipurpose Satellite 7, which can be used for national security purposes. In particular, Multipurpose Satellite 7, which will undergo the total assembly test this year, will feature the ability to identify objects smaller than 30 centimeters at an altitude of 500 km to 600 km. At present, only a few countries, including the United States, China, Japan, and Europe, possess ultra-high resolution optical satellite technology. The planned satellite will play an important role in monitoring major security risks, including North Korea's missile activities.
The government will also apply for a preliminary feasibility study by May to promote the Korea Positioning System (KPS) project, which is worth 3 trillion won (US$259 million). Once the project passes preliminary feasibility study and is launched in 2022, it will pave the way for Korea to emerge as a key player in the satellite navigation service market in East Asia. Separately, the government will complete a detailed design for the Korea Augmentation Satellite System (KASS), which can provide precise location information within 3 meters in real time, by June and begin preliminary integration of related systems from November.
In the aviation sector, KARI will work on the basic design of an optionally piloted personal air vehicle (OPPAVs) that can take off and land vertically. An OPPAV can be either manned or unmanned. It is a private aircraft that the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport and the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy are planning to develop. The two ministries will spend a total of 44.8 billion won (US$38 million) to develop it by the end of 2023. When the development is successful, the aircraft will be operated on a trial basis in the Seoul metropolitan area where road traffic is severely congested. NASA predicts that the market for personal air vehicle (PAV) will reach 250,000 units in 2030, while major companies in advanced countries such as Uber in the United States and Lilium in Germany have jumped into the development of PAV.
This year, the government will begin the production of a prototype for the supersonic fighter aircraft KF-X. It is notable that the project, which is aimed at developing a fighter jet with domestic technology, has got on track despite opposition from politicians and some defense companies. The aircraft has the potential to evolve into a fifth-generation stealth fighter jet in the future.
There is no big event in Korea this year in space exploration except the completion of the assembly of the 1-stage authentication model of the Korean space launch vehicle, a space rocket developed with domestic technology.