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South Korea given green light for solid-propellant rockets

New guidelines for South Korea rocket development would allow the country to develop a solid rocket booster bigger than those used for Seoul’s Hyunmoo missiles, a South Korean analyst said Tuesday. File Photo by Republic of Korea Ministry of Defense/EPA-EFE
New guidelines for South Korea rocket development would allow the country to develop a solid rocket booster bigger than those used for Seoul’s Hyunmoo missiles, a South Korean analyst said Tuesday. File Photo by Republic of Korea Ministry of Defense/EPA-EFE

July 28 (UPI) -- South Korea has been permitted to develop solid-fuel space rockets after missile guidelines were revised with the United States.

Kim Hyun-chong, South Korea's deputy national security adviser to President Moon Jae-in, said at a press briefing Seoul is to adopt amendments to current missile standards starting Tuesday, Yonhap and local newspaper Maeil Business reported.

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According to the presidential office, the revised missile guidelines will provide South Korea the power to launch Low-Earth Orbit military satellites "anywhere and at anytime." The satellites would operate at between 310 and 1,200 miles above the Earth's surface.

On Tuesday, Kim said the United States and South Korea agreed to new missile guidelines to "completely remove the restrictions on the use of solid fuels for [South Korea's] space vehicle."

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Solid-fuel rockets are the most cost-effective for the launch of military satellites. According to Yonhap's analysis, solid-fuel rockets have a simpler structure and fuel costs are one-10th of liquid-propellant rockets.

The South Korean move to relax restrictions against rockets could be part of Seoul's "425 Project." The policy includes plans to launch five domestic spy satellites by 2023. It would allow Seoul to be less dependent on U.S. strategic assets, according to local paper Donga Ilbo.

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The 425 Project is expected to cost Seoul about $1 billion and would include radar deployment.

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South Korea is moving toward solid-fuel space rocket development a week after SpaceX launched a South Korean military satellite using a Falcon 9 rocket.

Jang Young-geun, a professor of aerospace and mechanical engineering at Korea Aerospace University, told Yonhap the new guidelines would allow South Korea to develop a solid rocket booster that is bigger than those used for ballistic missiles of South Korea's Hyunmoo series.

As South Korea remains wary of North Korea weapons development, Moon has also appointed pro-engagement politicians to top posts.

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The president's office said Tuesday Park Jie-won, a former lawmaker, has been appointed as Seoul's spy chief.

Park played a key role during the 2000 inter-Korea summit. Main opposition conservatives are protesting the appointment, according to reports.

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