South Korea, 27 February 2007 – The world’s largest builder of marine vessels is now looking skyward, with a plan to build South Korea’s first space rocket launching pad.
Hyundai Heavy Industries said on February 26 that it has won the contract to build a rocket launching platform at the Naro Space Center on the coast of South Cholla Province by 2008.
South Korea is in line to become the ninth nation to launch a space vessel when it lifts off a 100-kilogram satellite into orbit from the Naro site as early as next year. The construction of the site began in 2000 at a cost of 265 billion won ($285 million) and is about 90 percent complete, except the launching pad.
Hyundai said it will build the launching platform on a turn-key contract with the Korea Aerospace Research Institute. The firm didn’t disclose the amount of the contract, but it is “less than what people may imagine,” a public relations official said.
“The most important thing is that Korea will learn the know-how of rocket launching. So far, we had to depend mostly on Russian technology,” the official said.
Hyundai will build surface and underground platforms and equipment as well as fueling systems and a control room. According to the firm the launching pad will be able to accommodate two rockets and will be jointly designed with a Russian counterpart.
The Ministry of Science and Technology has been vowing to make the country one of the top-10 space powers by 2015, while neighboring countries are already boasting their space technology. The establishment of the Naro Space Center is the first step by South Korea to become a major player in space exploration. Naro is to be the 26th launching site in the world.