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Asia Minute: South Korea extending its reach into space

South Korea Space Rocket
The Nuri rocket, the first domestically produced space rocket, sits on its launch pad at the Naro Space Center in Goheung, South Korea, Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021. South Korea was preparing to test-launch its first domestically produced space rocket Thursday in what officials describe as an important step in its pursuit of a satellite launch program. (Korea Pool via AP)

South Korea aspires to join the small group of countries that can launch satellites for commercial clients. The country took a step forward this week in building that new business.

Right now, there are half a dozen that can launch satellites of one ton or more.

All but two have Pacific coasts.

There’s Russia, China, Japan, and the United States — along with India in South Asia and France — which launches from French Guiana in South America.

This week’s South Korean launch was not a total success.

On Thursday, the country sent a satellite launch vehicle into a low-earth orbit — and deployed a payload the size and weight of a satellite.

The payload failed to reach orbit.

South Korea Space Rocket citizens watch 10212021
Ahn Young-joon/AP
People watch a TV broadcasting the launch of the Nuri rocket, at Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

One mark of progress: this rocket was developed in South Korea — previous South Korean launches have used rockets developed in Russia.

President Moon Jae-in addressed the nation about the launch — calling it excellent “for a first try.”

The project is aimed at growing a commercial sector — but there’s also a strong security aspect.

That was highlighted by another event this week: North Korea’s test-firing of a ballistic missile.

South Korea has already put nearly $2 billion into its rocket launch program over the past decade — the next test launch will come in May.

President Moon says the government is pursuing its goal of sending an exploratory robotic mission to the moon by 2030.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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