For Korea to launch a fully indigenous space rocket in 2019 as planned may be difficult because the country has yet to sufficiently secure core technology, a lawmaker said yesterday.
During the ongoing parliamentary inspection of the administration, Rep. Lim Hae-kyu of the ruling Grand National Party disclosed a report on the preliminary feasibility study regarding the rocket development project, which will begin next year with a budget of 1.5449 trillion won ($1.3 billion).
The Ministry of Strategy and Finance recently commissioned the Korea Institute of Science and Technology Evaluation and Planning to conduct the study. The government plans to launch a 1.5-metric ton multi-purpose commercial satellite on an entirely domestically-built rocket, named the Korea Space Launch Vehicle-II, in 2019
Lim said the study results show that Korea needs "collaboration" from a foreign country in developing the space rocket as it has yet to secure some 21.3 percent of the technology, which is mostly related to the development of the engine and the propellant system.
Owing to the insufficient technology, Lim expected some changes to the schedule for the development and blastoff of the KSLV-II and additional cost for building it. The report also noted that the development of the engine and all other rocket systems would proceed simultaneously and take more than 10 years.
"As a massive amount of taxpayers` money will be spent on the project, the government must not hasten the development process. A thorough checkup must be carried out before presenting any development plan," said Lim.
"The KSLV-I was launched in 2009 although it was originally scheduled to blast off in 2005. Its budget also increased while the project proceeded."
The launch of the KSLV-I, better known as Naro, was delayed seven times. Naro, which was developed with the help of a Russian company, blasted off on Aug. 25 at the Naro Space Center, the country`s first spaceport in Goheung, South Jeolla Province.
However, the rocket failed to deploy the domestically-built 100-kilogram satellite into orbit as one part of the fairing that was used to cover and protect the experimental satellite failed to separate.
During the parliamentary audit, GNP Rep. Kim Seon-dong contended that the government should acknowledge that the Naro launch was a failure so that a third rocket can be launched.
According to a 2004 contract with Russia`s Khrunichev State Space Science and Production Center, which developed the first-stage rocket of the two-stage Naro, two rockets are to be launched, and Korea can make a request for a third launch if either of the first two launches fails.
The ministry has so far said that the first launch was "half-successful" instead of calling it a "failure." Rep. Kim argued that the contract stipulates that when the satellite successfully enters the target orbit, the mission can be called a success.
"The ministry must admit the obvious fact that (the launch) was a failure for the national interests and the development of space industry, and strive to prepare for the next launch and secure additional launch (the third launch)," Kim said.
As agreed in the contract, another rocket will be launched in May next year. Korea spent 502.4 billion won on the KSLV-I project, which began in August 2002. About 40 percent of that amount was paid to the Russians.
By Song Sang-ho