South Korea’s space rocket launch boosts local entrepreneurs

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Attendees watch an exhibit of rocket engines and other components manufactured by Hanwha at the Seoul International Aerospace and Defense Expo (ADEX), in Seongnam, South Korea on October 20, 2021. REUTERS / Josh Smith

GOHEUNG / SEOUL, South Korea, Oct.21 (Reuters) – South Korea’s push for a nationally-made space rocket promises broad benefits for its military and government, with a boost to national prestige, but is also good for business.

Thursday’s test of the Nuri rocket is a milestone for companies such as Hanwha Aerospace (012450.KS), which manufactures rocket thrusters and other launch components, and Korea Aerospace Industries (047810.KS), which supervised the assembly of the launcher.

“Hanwha built the engine, but KAI was responsible for assembling around 300,000 rocket components,” said Choi Gwang-shik, analyst at Korea Investment & Securities.

“And these components came from myriads of companies, including shipbuilder Hyundai Heavy Industries. The launch would greatly benefit everyone involved.”

About 300 South Korean companies were involved in the production of the 200-ton three-stage Nuri, Yong Hong-taek, first vice minister of science and technology, said during a briefing at the space center.

The Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) is planning several more tests of Nuri before it carries an actual payload, but seeks to partner more closely with a single company on the assembly and launch processes, in the same way that NASA is working with SpaceX in the United States. States, officials said.

“As we will attempt five more launches in the future, we plan to eventually transfer all technologies to the private sector,” Yong said.

Although the space program is lagging behind many other countries, including its neighbors China and Japan, South Korea is eager to catch up and its companies appear poised to ride a wave of new government funding.

Since March 2010, South Korea has invested around 2,000 billion won ($ 1.70 billion) in the Nuri development project, while annual investment in space projects has more than doubled from 305 billion in 2013 to 616 billion won ($ 524 million) in 2020, said the National Assembly’s research department.

President Moon Jae-in cited the rocket as an example of the efforts of the national defense and aerospace industry, which he wants to energize.

The government will encourage the private space sector to make South Korea “a space power,” he told the Seoul International Aerospace and Defense Expo this week.

Space efforts are also expected to benefit manufacturers of surveillance, navigation and communications satellites, as well as other industries.

The government plans to spend 3.7 trillion won ($ 3.1 billion) to develop a Korean positioning system with eight satellites to ensure the accuracy needed to develop technologies such as self-driving cars, the spokesperson said. of the ministry, Koo Hyuk-chae.

“We believe this will reverberate across the industry,” he told Reuters.

South Korea is forecasting a 4% increase in its space budget to 640 billion won ($ 544 million) for next year.

In August, the defense procurement agency announced that it would invest about 1.6 trillion won ($ 1.4 billion) over the next 10 years in the domestic defense satellite business.

Shares of Hanwha Aerospace, which makes everything from rocket engines and howitzers to surveillance technology, have climbed 73% this year.

The company will focus on providing quality engines for future Nuri launcher testing, a spokesperson said, adding that it has an approximate investment target of around one trillion won ($ 849 million). or more in the space sector by 2030.

($ 1,175,8,800)

Reporting by Josh Smith in Goheung and Sangmi Cha and Joyce Lee in Seoul; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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