South Korea’s Future Plans in Space

KARI President Seung-Jo Kim

JAXA has posted a Q&A with Seung-Jo Kim, President of the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI). Most of the interview relates to growing cooperation between KARI and JAXA, but there is a good overview of South Korea’s plans in rocketry, ISS experiments and lunar exploration for the next decade. Key excerpts from the conversation follow.

On Rocket Development

“Korea’s space policy is part of the Basic Space Development Promotion Plan, which was based on the Basic Space Development Promotion Act, enacted in 2005. In particular, we emphasize the development of a purely domestic satellite launch rocket called KSLV-2. Our major goal is to launch a domestic satellite on a domestic rocket, making use of the technology and experience gained through the development of the Naro rocket.

“KSLV-2 is a three-stage liquid-fuel rocket about 50 meters long and 3.3 meters in diameter. It will launch a 1.5-tonne satellite into low Earth orbit. The current Naro rocket can only carry a satellite weighing about 100 kilograms to low Earth orbit, so KSLV-2 will have to have a much greater launch capability. To make this possible, we need a 75-tonne-class engine, so its development will be key. We began work on the KSLV-2 in 2011, aiming to launch in 2021. We’ve started preparing the ground test facility for a 75-tonne-class engine, and plan to start expansion of the launch site at the Naro Space Center.”

On ISS Experiments

“We would like to participate anytime we have the chance, as a partner in many different types of space experiments on the ISS. We are currently considering joint space experiments with Japan, using the Japanese Experiment Module Kibo. We are aiming to launch our experiment equipment in 2015, via the H-II Transfer Vehicle “KOUNOTORI”, Japan’s a cargo transporter to the ISS, and we plan to conduct joint research in the Kibo laboratory. “

On Future Astronaut Flights

“In 2008, Korea took its first step towards manned space activity. Dr. So-Yeon Yi became the first Korean to fly in space, on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft, and stayed at the International Space Station (ISS) for 10 days, conducting many scientific experiments. At the moment, KARI does not have an astronaut training program, but I hear that the Korea Air Force, for example, is interested in training astronauts.”

On Lunar Exploration

“One of KARI’s objectives is to launch a probe into lunar orbit around 2023. However, first we need to launch a KSLV-2 rocket successfully, and then enhance it so that we can launch a probe into lunar orbit. So making a purely domestic rocket is our first priority for now.”