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KASA chief vows full support for private-led space missions

By Kan Hyeong-woo

Published : May 2, 2024 - 18:15

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From left: John Lee, nominee for deputy administration of mission directorates of the Korea AeroSpace Administration, Yoon Young-bin, nominee for the KASA administrator and Rho Kyung-won, nominee for KASA deputy administrator meet with reporters in Seoul on Thursday. (Yonhap) From left: John Lee, nominee for deputy administration of mission directorates of the Korea AeroSpace Administration, Yoon Young-bin, nominee for the KASA administrator and Rho Kyung-won, nominee for KASA deputy administrator meet with reporters in Seoul on Thursday. (Yonhap)

Korea’s new state space agency, the Korea AeroSpace Administration, or KASA, will focus on rearranging roles with the private sector to support companies to lead commercial space developments while the government concentrates on long-term space projects, the nominee for the top leadership position at KASA said Thursday.

“So far, Korea’s space sector has been led by the government out-sourcing projects to the industry,” said Yoon Young-bin, an aerospace engineering professor at the Seoul National University and administrator nominee of KASA, in a meeting with reporters along with the two deputy administrator nominees in Seoul.

“What we are trying to do is to support and foster companies that can take charge of space projects. In that way, we can move towards the space economy as (Korean space) firms compete against other private players across the world.”

The KASA administrator nominee stressed the importance of the five director generals who will be responsible for mission support, space transportation, satellite, space science exploration and aeronautics innovation.

“We think the role of director generals is critical and we are thoroughly working on choosing the right person for each position, so it will take some time,” said Yoon.

Although the application period for the five director-general positions had closed, Yoon indicated that KASA is open to considering more suitable candidates outside the applicants.

John Lee, a former NASA senior executive who spent about 30 years at the US space body, also echoed the need to select the best personnel from the get-go.

“I have been thinking about how we can apply the best traits of NASA to KASA,” said Lee.

“But we cannot do it the same way as NASA does. We have to figure out how to adapt (the good traits) to Korean society. Because we are starting new, I believe it’s an opportunity. I have been looking at Korea’s (space) expertise … I think Korea can be a world-class (space player) if we can work towards the same direction.”

Asked about the possibility of recruiting other NASA talents, Lee said nothing is certain for now.

Rho Kyung-won, a senior official at the Ministry of Science and ICT and KASA’s other deputy administrator who will handle the administrative side of the space body, said KASA will begin with a little over 100 personnel at launch.

“The total quota of KASA is 293 people but we will not be working at full capacity all the time,” said Roh.

“We expect to fill up most of the remaining positions by the end of the year.”

The three nominees refrained from disclosing specific roadmaps or big pictures as they plan to unveil KASA’s refined vision and goals after its official launch scheduled for May 27.