Thursday, November 02, 2006

Korean Space Launch Vehicle (KSLV) News

I have been reliably informed that the amount the Korean government are contracted to pay the Krunichev Center in Russia for KSLV development is around US $200 Million. Here in Korea it has been generally expected that this money would pay for extensive technology transfer of large scale rocket engine and launch vehicle know-how to Korea. Now it seems that the technology transfer aspect of the agreement has, to say the least been greatly exaggerated. Recently I obtained a copy of a brief news item from the Digital Times, an online news service in Korean. (I tracked down the link to the original article in Korean.)

Here is my rough translation. (disclaimer - don't use this translation for serious journalism. Get a qualified translator to to a proper job.)

On the 23rd (October), Vladimir Nesterov, manager of the Krunichev Center in Russia, informed (us) that the Krunichev Center intends to perform the design and manufacture work for the KSLV first stage propulsion system. However he also revealed that transfer of detailed technology will likely not happen.

Nesterov said that Korea and Russia had (already) entered a contract for development of the propulsion system manufacturing technology. "We have obtained a contract to develop a first stage propulsion system for a launch vehicle capable of launching a 100kg satellite. We will supply components/materials needed for manufacture without transferring technology." Nesterov said.

In 2004 the Krunichev Space Center with three other Russian aerospace organizations, and the Korean Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) entered into an agreement to develop a two stage launch vehicle with Russia developing the first stage and Korea the second stage.

According to the contract, Russia will provide help to Korea to perform two launches.

This may not seem like a big deal to US readers, but certainly a lot of people here will be annoyed at the decision to give the Russians so much money to basically help them fund their own launch vehicle. The Ministry of Science and Technology has already been asking questions. My wife (ok I admit she helped me with the hard bits) when she read the article, straight away got the impression that Korea is getting a raw deal and I think her reaction would be typical.

Another odd thing: There is nowhere in Korea that a satellite can be safely launched into equatorial orbit! Japan is directly to the east, and only the North Koreans would be rude enough to launch right over the top of them.


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