Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Park In-ho (far right) speaks to officers after attending an opening ceremony for the Air Force Space Center on Thursday. (South Korea's Air Force)
The Air Force opened a space center Thursday to bolster its defense capabilities and exchanges with foreign counterparts as the country seeks a greater presence in space.
In May, South Korea and the US terminated missile guidelines that since 1979 had allowed Seoul to build missiles with a range of no more than 800 kilometers. The restrictions prevented Seoul from flying missiles far beyond the Korean Peninsula.
“Space will be a key war-fighting domain and we will have our weapons ready up there. We will help deal with threats to space security as well,” the Air Force said.
The Air Force is planning to boost its space power in stages. It is eyeing building reconnaissance satellites by 2025, along with weather satellites and mini-satellites.
By 2030, the Air Force is looking to come up with operational tactics to counter threats in space using the equipment, though it would still have limited capabilities. By 2050 the Air Force expects to have a space force that is fully capable of any operations it sees fit, from research to military engagement.
The military would work with other government bodies to make that happen, a military official said, adding that joint efforts could advance the timeline.
Next month the Ministry of Science and ICT is launching its three-stage Nuri rocket -- the first homegrown launch vehicle -- and its success would mark a major advancement. The ministry put a research satellite into orbit in 2013, but the carrier rocket was built with domestic and Russian technology.
The Air Force, which first established an office dedicated to space technology in 1998 and devised rules of engagement in space four years later, will make the new space center report directly to the Air Force Chief.
By Choi Si-young (email@example.com