South Korea pushes indigenous military space development


South Korea’s Ministry of National Defense (MND) announced on 16 September that the country will indigenously develop and operate a new Space Launch Vehicle (SLV) from Naro Space Center in Goheung County from 2024.

The facility, which is located around 485 km from Seoul, is operated by the state-run Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI). The announcement comes after the MND’s Agency of Defense Development (ADD) revealed on 15 September that it had carried out successful combustion tests of a new solid-propellant rocket engine on 29 July.

The planned SLV will be used to launch reconnaissance micro-satellites into low Earth orbit to provide early warning against “anomalies in the detection area” – understood to be missile launches from North Korea and other significant military activity. The ADD also noted that development of such technologies only became possible after restrictions imposed by the US-South Korea missile guidelines agreement were lifted.

The announcement came as South Korea prepares to launch its indigenous Nuri SLV from the Naro Space Center in October. The vehicle is powered by domestic liquid-fuel engines and is capable of placing a 1.5-tonne satellite into orbit at altitudes of 600 km to 800 km. The first SLV mission will carry a dummy satellite payload, with plans to expand the envelope to two dummy satellites for the second mission scheduled for 19 May 2022.

Meanwhile, South Korean defence companies Hanwha Systems and LIG Nex1 announced on 15 September they were awarded contracts by the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) for work related to the ANASIS-II (Army Navy Air Force Satellite Information System-II) military communications satellite.

Hanwha Systems said it was awarded a US$307 million contract to establish a network control system as well as manufacture portable ground terminals compatible with the ANASIS-II satellite, which launched into space in July 2020.

LIG Nex1 disclosed that it had won a US$183 million contract to mass produce terminals for the new military satellite communication system by 2025. The company noted that these new terminals will provide increased datalink transmission performance as well as security.

DAPA earlier announced on 19 August that the government plans to invest US$13.5 billion over 10 years to boost the development of indigenous defence-related space technologies and reduce the country’s reliance on US reconnaissance assets.

by Jr Ng