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Korean Air kicks off engine development for small satellite launch vehicle

(Korean Air)
(Korean Air)

The country’s largest air carrier Korean Air will develop common bulkhead propellant tanks for small satellite launch vehicles by 2027 as part of the Ministry of Science and ICT’s Space Pioneer project, the company said Friday. 

Under a ministry-led program, some 211.5 billion won ($170 million) will be spent until 2030 on developing the country’s bulkhead propellant tanks for small satellite launch vehicles, a device for umbilical release and mobile launch pad, as well as nurturing the related workforce to sharpen the country’s aerospace competitiveness. 

In the process of development, Korean Air will be responsible for engine system design, management of assembly system and processing evaluation test. 

With a budget of 32 billion won, Korean Air has formed an industry and academic consortium that involves Korea Aerospace Research Institute, NDT Engineering & Aerospace and Korea Aerospace University last year.

The air carrier said through successful development, it will contribute to the development of Korea’s space industry and strengthen the industry’s global competitiveness and cement its position as a pioneer in the NewSpace sector. 

NewSpace refers to the private spaceflight industry that has become a common concept with firms developing private or small satellite launch vehicles or suborbital tourism with a purpose to reinvent the traditional space industry supply chain. Globally, the small satellite launch vehicle market is also growing rapidly, with market pioneer SpaceX having launched over 1,000 400-kilogram satellites and plans to launch up to 12,000 more. Global companies such as Amazon and Meta are also planning to launch hundreds of small- and medium-sized satellites.

In 2012, Korean Air developed and assembled Korea’s first space launch vehicle, Naro (KSLV-1), based on its core technology capabilities such as aircraft system integration and aircraft structure development.

By Kim Da-sol (