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SpaceX to launch S.Korea’s next-generation satellite

SpaceX, KAI sign deal on next-generation mid-sized satellite projectile, mull strategic alliance

By Jul 19, 2021 (Gmt+09:00)

Assembly of a South Korean-developed projectile for the No.2 next-generation mid-sized satellite 
Assembly of a South Korean-developed projectile for the No.2 next-generation mid-sized satellite 

Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) have joined hands to develop next-generation mid-sized satellite projectiles, suggesting South Korea’s private sector is leading its space business.

KAI, the country’s sole aircraft maker, said on July 18 that it signed a deal with SpaceX on the No. 4 next-generation mid-sized satellite projectile as Musk’s space transportation company has a high success rate with low costs. The two companies are also considering forming a strategic alliance in the aerospace sector. KAI’s chief financial officer Kim Jung-ho in May discussed SpaceX's foray into Asian markets.

KAI is working on next-generation mid-sized satellite development, a national project led by the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI), the country’s space agency. The project is to develop five 500-kg satellites with the country’s own technology. The KARI led the launch of the No. 1 in March, which was delivered to the designated orbit on a Russian Soyuz rocket. KAI plans to manage the entire process of the remaining four satellites including development and launch. The No. 2 and the No. 3 will be launched on projectiles developed by Korean companies.

It aims to send the No. 4 and the No. 5 into space by 2025. The No. 4 will be used to monitor South Korea's agricultural conditions and the No. 5 will evaluate its water resources. KAI has not decided whether to use a SpaceX rocket for the No. 5.

KAI did not disclose the value of the deal with SpaceX, although it said costs were lower with a higher success rate than satellite projectile partnerships with other companies at home and abroad.

KAI is seeking future growth engines in the aerospace sector, which is estimated to reach 500 trillion won ($436.5 billion). It is the only South Korean company that has all levels of satellite development know-how, from design to manufacturing, assembly and testing. In August 2020, the company completed building the country’s largest private space center, which can simultaneously produce more than 20 ultra-small satellites. Its market share in the 350 billion won domestic aerospace manufacturing sector stood at around 40% last year.

“We are also considering mergers and acquisitions (M&A) or strategic alliances in the future to analyze satellite images and provide high value-added services such as climate and land management,” KAI president Ahn Hyunho said.

Write to Kyung-Min Kang at

Jongwoo Cheon edited this article.
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