South Korea is working on a reusable rocket having 100-ton thrust engines

South Korea will begin developing a reusable rocket featuring a cluster of liquid-propelled 100-ton thrust engines next year. The Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) is going to be in charge of its development, while the mission’s exact timeline and other elements are yet unknown.

After a meeting with Lim Hye-sook, the Minister of Science and ICT, as well as members of the National Assembly’s Science, ICT, Future Planning, Broadcasting, and Communications Committee on November 10, a ruling party politician unveiled the plan.

“The construction of a high-performance reusable spacecraft with liquid-propelled 100-ton thrust engines are going to begin next year,” said Cho Seung-rae, a representative from the governing Democratic Party of Korea. “Having such a liquid-propelled high-performance rocket engine is required [for South Korea] to successfully complete the missions of deploying a [robotic] lunar lander by the year 2030 and self-constructing the Korea Positioning System by 2035.”

South Korean President Moon Jae-in has pledged to launch the country’s first-ever robotic lunar lander on the homegrown rocket by 2030. Moon also revealed that feasibility studies for launching a spaceship to Apophis, which is an asteroid which will pass close to Earth in 2029, are underway. During his March 25 address at the Naro Space Center in Goheung, he announced these space exploration goals, as well as a number of other plans targeted at improving nation’s space development capabilities.

Cho claims that the engine he envisions will be “capable of managing its thrust with four successive reburns,” a feature that will “substantially reduce launch cost.” According to the member, the government would conduct a two-year preliminary investigation into the matter, with a budget of $10.2 million (12 billion won) set aside.

The government’s budget request for 2022 did not include “reusability,” and South Korea’s next-generation rocket was expected to be a single-use model which is “larger and more powerful” than KSLV-2, a 3-stage rocket launched October 21 with 4 KRE-075 engines during its first booster.

Cho gave no explanation for the shift. He also didn’t say whether the projected reusable rocket would be the country’s launch vehicle; next-generation or if it would be produced alongside an advanced expendable rocket. This subject, as well as others aimed at promoting the domestic space industry, is going to be considered at a meeting of the National Space Council on November 15, according to the lawmaker. The National Space Council is the primary decision-making government organization on space limitations under the Prime Minister.

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