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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on June 23)

07:00 June 23, 2022

Opening new space era
State-of-the-art technology holds key to success

Korea successfully launched a homegrown rocket Tuesday, opening a new space era. The Nuri blasted off from the Naro Space Center in Goheung, a coastal village in South Jeolla Province, and placed its payload of satellites into the target altitude of 700 kilometers above the Earth. The Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) confirmed Wednesday that the performance verification satellite of the Nuri, also known as Korean Space Launch Vehicle II (KSLV II), was operating smoothly while communicating with its station in Daejeon.

With the launch, Korea has become the world's seventh nation that can launch a locally-developed rocket to place a satellite weighing more than a ton into geosynchronous orbit, following the United States, Russia, France, China, Japan and India. While declaring the success of the launch, Science and ICT Minister Lee Jong-ho said, "The skies over Korea have opened wide and the country has made a great progress in science and technology."

We extend our congratulations to those involved in the monumental project for their strenuous efforts toward the development and successful launch of the Nuri. Korea relied on technical support from Russia in the launch of the Naro rocket in 2013. Yet this time, the nation used its own technology in the entire process of designing, manufacturing, testing and launching the Nuri rocket. Such a process required state-of-the-art technology for the superb and precise operation of some 370,000 parts and components. It was a result of vigorous efforts by more than 1,000 people and some 300 domestic enterprises over the past 12 years at a cost of 2 trillion won (US$1.54 billion).

Due to the limited access to the relevant technology, Korea has been suffering setbacks in its bid to develop its own space launch vehicle. By securing relevant technology, Korea has become able to jumpstart in many areas such as information and communications, and defense security as well as aerospace. This will also facilitate Korea's bid to proactively take part in diverse space exploration programs.

Now, many countries and companies are engaged in a fierce competition in space exploration. They are rushing to hone space communications technologies and even operate "space troops" for military purposes. Many businesses have begun to turn their eyes on space tourism. This means the opening of a new space era led by the private sector, marking a shift from the space race which has so far been initiated by states.

Korea faces diverse challenges in emerging as a space power. It needs to prove the safety of the Nuri through four more launches until 2027. Korea should learn a lesson from the SpaceX of the United States which developed the knowhow to reuse space vehicles. Korea also should sharpen its prowess in manufacturing and operating satellites. The government should devise detailed action plans to drive the nation to become a space powerhouse in the real sense. In this vein, it is good news that President Yoon Suk-yeol, while acclaiming the successful launch, vowed to keep his pledge to set up a space agency.
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