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Seoul, Washington lift limitations on Korea’s use of solid rocket fuel

National security advisor Kim Hyun-chong. (Yonhap)
National security advisor Kim Hyun-chong. (Yonhap)

South Korean government, military and private organizations are now able to develop solid-fuel launch vehicles following the latest revision to South Korea-US missile guidelines, Cheong Wa Dae said Tuesday.

According to Kim Hyun-chong, national security adviser to the president, the revised missile guidelines take effect immediately.

“As of July 28, 2020, limits on the use of solid fuel in space launch vehicles are completely removed,” Kim said. He said the revision allows all South Korean private sector and government organizations to develop launch vehicles using liquid and solid fuels, as well as any combination of the two types, without limitations.

Previously, South Korea has been limited to using solid fuel in secondary rockets with total impulse capability of less than 1 million pounds (454,000 kilograms) per second.

However, as rockets with total impulse of 50 million pounds (22.7 million kilograms) per second or higher are required to reach space, President Moon Jae-in ordered the National Security Office to negotiate with its US counterpart to address the issue in October.

According to Kim, the revision lays the groundwork for South Korea to increase the military’s intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, as well as to enter the space industry.

“(The revision) will enable us to develop capabilities to launch low-orbit reconnaissance satellites, to establish ‘unblinking eye’ surveillance capabilities,” Kim said.

He added that the country plans to launch a number of low-orbit satellites using locally developed solid-fuel launch vehicles by the mid-2020s.

Kim went on to say that the revision will also allow the private sector to expand into the quickly growing space-related industries. According to Kim, the world’s space industry, valued at $360 billion in 2018, is expected to grow to be worth $1 trillion by 2040. In comparison, South Korea’s space industry was valued at $3.6 billion in 2018.

In addition to laying the groundwork for industrial development, Kim said the revision takes the South Korea-US alliance to a new level, taking the scope of cooperation between to the two nations to space.

“If President Park Chung-hee laid highways for industrial development and President Kim Dae-jung build the internet highway, President Moon Jae-in is opening a space highway for the ‘fourth industrial revolution,’” Kim said.

“President Moon said that the will build a country that cannot be shaken, and (the revision) lays the foundations for Korea’s space industry that will lead to economic development and stronger security.”

By Choi He-suk (cheesuk@heraldcorp.com)
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