Seen is a concept design of a small satellite launcher Hanwha Aerospace is planning to develop in cooperation with the Korea Aerospace Research Institute. Credit: Hanwha Aerospace

SEOUL, South Korea — An aerospace affiliate of South Korean conglomerate Hanwha Group will develop a small satellite launcher in cooperation with the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI), in the group’s latest effort to diversify its business portfolio in the space sector. 

Hanwha Aerospace unveiled the plan Dec. 6, saying the two organizations recently had a joint meeting for preliminary requirement review on their envisioned rocket. While the rocket will be designed to deliver up to 500 kilograms of payload to low-Earth-orbit, other details, including budget, development timetable and required technologies, remain undecided, Hanwha Aerospace spokesman Danny Oh told SpaceNews.

“What’s decided is that we will develop a satellite launcher,” Oh said. “We are in the beginning step. More details will emerge as the project moves forward.” 

Hanwha said it currently focuses its research on conceptual system design, cost-benefit analysis and required technologies as part of efforts to develop a small satellite launcher that is “sustainable and economically competitive.”

Research outcomes will be discussed in a system requirement review meeting between Hanwha and KARI, slated for March, according to the company.

“We will utilize our performance in various fields to create an economical and reliable system solution for the launch of small projectiles,” Hanwha Aerospace CEO Shin Hyun-woo said in a Dec. 6 statement.

Hanwha is the most committed conglomerate to space business in South Korea, with a decades-long heritage in solid-propellant missile development and aggressive investments in satellite and antenna makers at home and abroad. With the heritage, Hanwha Aerospace developed core engine and valve parts of KSLV-2, South Korea’s first homemade rocket that had its maiden flight Oct. 21.

Hanwha has expanded its satellite business by acquiring a controlling stake in domestic satellite manufacturer Satrec Initiative and British phased array antenna-maker Phasor Solutions. In August,  Hanwha moved into the satellite broadband business by purchasing an 8.8 percent stake in OneWeb for $300 million, winning a seat on the British company’s board of directors. Hanwha is also interested in building and operating a constellation. In March, Hanwha Systems, the group’s defense and information technology arm, announced a plan to build a constellation of 2,000 satellites in low Earth orbit by 2030 to provide connectivity to urban cargo-delivery drones and passenger airplanes.

Park Si-soo covers space industries in South Korea, Japan and other Asian countries. Park worked at The Korea Times — South Korea's leading English language newspaper — from 2007 to 2020. He earned a master’s degree in science journalism from Korea...