(Updates with mission fails to put object in orbit, paragraphs
GOHEUNG/SEOUL, South Korea, Oct 21 (Reuters) - South Korea's
push for a domestically made space rocket promises wide-ranging
benefits for its military and government, with a fillip to
national prestige - but it is also good for business.
Despite Thursday's mission being incomplete, the project
will press ahead towards its goal of launching satellites into
orbit and joining in space exploration with five more launches
scheduled by 2027, President Moon Jae-in said.
Moon, who watched the launched from the space centre, said
the rocket completed all its flight sequences but failed to put
its test payload into orbit.
The test of the Nuri rocket is a milestone for firms such as
Hanwha Aerospace, which makes rocket boosters and
other launch components, and Korea Aerospace Industries
, which oversaw assembly of the launch vehicle.
"Hanwha built the engine, but KAI was responsible for
assembling about 300,000 components of the rocket," said Choi
Gwang-shik, an analyst with Korea Investment & Securities.
"And these components came from myriads of companies,
including the shipbuilder Hyundai Heavy Industries. The launch
would broadly benefit all firms involved."
About 300 South Korean firms were involved in producing the
200-ton, three-stage Nuri, Yong Hong-taek, first vice minister
of science and technology, told a briefing at the space centre.
The Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) plans several
more tests of Nuri before it carries a real payload, but looks
to partner more closely with a single firm on assembly and
launch processes, similar to the way in which NASA works with
SpaceX in the United States, officials said.
"As we will attempt another five launches in the future we
are planning to transfer all technology to the private sector
eventually," Yong said.
Although the space programme lags many other nations,
including neighbours China and Japan, South Korea is eager to
catch up, and its companies look set to ride a wave of new
Since March 2010, South Korea has invested about 2 trillion
won ($1.70 billion) in the Nuri development project, while
annual investment in space projects has more than doubled, to
616 billion won ($524 million) in 2020 from 305 billion in 2013,
the National Assembly Research Service said.
President Moon pointed to the rocket as an example of the
efforts of the homegrown defence and aerospace industry, which
he wants to supercharge.
The government will foster the private space sector to make
South Korea "a space powerhouse," he told the Seoul
International Aerospace & Defense Exhibition this week.
The space efforts also stand to benefit makers 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 Korea Positioning System with eight
satellites to ensure the accuracy needed to develop technology
such as self-driving cars, ministry spokesman Koo Hyuk-chae
"We believe that will trickle down to the whole industry,"
he told Reuters.
South Korea plans a 4% increase in its space budget of 640
billion won ($544 million) for next year.
In August the defence acquisition agency said it would
invest about 1.6 trillion won ($1.4 billion) over the next 10
years in the domestic defence satellite sector.
Shares of Hanwha Aerospace, which makes everything from
rocket engines and howitzers to surveillance technology, have
soared 73% this year.
The firm will focus on providing quality engines for future
Nuri launch vehicle tests, a spokesperson said, adding that it
had a rough investment target of about a trillion won ($849
million) or more in the space business by 2030.
(Reporting by Josh Smith in Goheung, and Sangmi Cha and Joyce
Lee in Seoul; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Hugh Lawson)