South Korea joins space race as it plans $72.5 billion investment by 2045

By:
on May 30, 2024
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  • This historic initiative was unveiled at the opening ceremony of the KASA in Sacheon.
  • KASA launched as a campaign pledge by President Yoon Suk Yeol, who took office in May 2022.
  • The National Assembly passed a bill last year to transition KARI and KASSI to KASA's jurisdiction.

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South Korea, long a powerhouse in consumer electronics and semiconductors, is setting its sights on the final frontier: space.

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President Yoon Suk Yeol announced an ambitious plan to invest 100 trillion won ($72.6 billion) in the space industry by 2045, aiming to land a space exploration vehicle on the moon by 2032 and plant the national flag on Mars by 2045.

This historic initiative was unveiled at the opening ceremony of the Korea AeroSpace Administration (KASA) in Sacheon.

Massive investment to boost space and aerospace sectors

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President Yoon’s plan includes a significant increase in budget and investment to enhance South Korea’s competitiveness in the global space race.

Yoon said:

We will expand the related budget to over 1.5 trillion won by 2027 and attract about 100 trillion won in investment by 2045.

This investment strategy is part of a broader effort to position South Korea as a leader in setting standards and driving innovation in space and related industries.

KASA, South Korea’s newly established space agency, aims to unify the country’s space efforts, which were previously spread across multiple organizations.

The consolidation under KASA is intended to streamline space exploration, industry, security, and international cooperation efforts, marking a significant shift from the previous fragmented approach.

Recent successes and future plans in space exploration

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South Korea’s recent achievements in space technology highlight its growing capabilities. Last year, the successful third launch of the 200-ton Nuri rocket, also known as KSLV-II, placed eight practical satellites into orbit.

Additionally, the country has launched two military reconnaissance satellites via SpaceX rockets to enhance surveillance over North Korea.

By 2025, South Korea plans to acquire five spy satellites and around 60 small and micro-sized spy satellites by 2030, enabling comprehensive monitoring of the Korean Peninsula.

The development of a homegrown solid-fuel space rocket is also underway, with the military conducting its third flight test in December.

These smaller satellites, expected to be launched on this domestic rocket, will significantly bolster South Korea’s space capabilities and security.

Strategic shift toward a unified space policy

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The creation of KASA represents a strategic shift in South Korea’s approach to space exploration.

Since 1989, space matters were managed by the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI), while astronomical research and international cooperation fell under the Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute (KASSI) and various other ministries.

The Ministry of Science and ICT (MSIT) recognized that this dispersed system limited growth, prompting the consolidation into a single agency.

KASA, launched as a campaign pledge by President Yoon Suk Yeol, who took office in May 2022, was established to integrate these functions and drive a more cohesive space strategy.

The National Assembly passed a bill last year to transition KARI and KASSI to KASA’s jurisdiction, which has now been enacted.

Moon and Mars missions likely?

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South Korea’s robust investment and strategic consolidation in the space industry are poised to make it a formidable player on the global stage.

By fostering innovation and unifying its space programs under KASA, the country aims to not only achieve its ambitious moon and Mars missions but also lead in space technology standards and international cooperation.

President Yoon’s vision underscores the importance of space exploration as a critical component of national competitiveness and technological advancement.

As South Korea intensifies its efforts, it will contribute to the broader global space race, potentially collaborating with other nations and international space agencies.

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