The South Koreans also want their place in space. The commitment to the aerospace industry of the Asian country led yesterday to the launch of the first nationally manufactured rocket that has put a commercial satellite into orbit. A step forward in South Korea's ambitions to compete in the space race with its Asian neighbors.
The 'Nuri' rocket (meaning "world" in Korean) lifted off from the Naro Space Center on the southern tip of the island on Thursday afternoon after technical problems prevented its launch a day earlier.
'Nuri' was carrying eight observation satellites, including the main commercial satellite, which made contact with a base station in Antarctica after successfully separating from the rocket, Science Minister Lee Jong-ho announced.
This success marks an important step for the space industry, and places South Korea among the top seven countries that have launched satellites into space with space launch vehicles, both of which are domestically produced by the Aerospace Research Institute.
The aerospace industry is one of Seoul's ten strategic sectors. In December 2022, President Yoon Suk-yeol announced that he wanted to make the country "one of the five world powers" by achieving "technological independence in the essential elements of the launcher and satellites." In fact, the Korean government has set itself the goal of increasing participation in the space sector from the current 1% to 10% in 2045.
"This will greatly change the way the world views South Korea's space science technology and its advanced industry," President Yoon Suk Yeol stated after the launch.
The 'Nuri' ship is key to the country's ambitious plans to promote a navigation system based on the 6G communications network, and even for lunar probes. But South Korea is also showing that it knows how to develop the technology needed to keep a closer eye on its belligerent neighbor to the north, which is preparing to launch its first military spy satellite.
Last week, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un approved final preparations for a satellite launch, without specifying a date. Added to this is the "level of urgency" that the construction of the North Korean satellite launch station has reached, warned by a group of US-based experts cited by the Reuters news agency.
South Korea also hopes the successful launch will help it compete with existing space powers in the region, notably China and Japan, which have been putting vehicles into orbit for a few years.