The United States has lifted decades-old restrictions on Seoul’s use of solid fuels for its space rocket launches.
“Today, (the two sides) have adopted the 2020 revision of the missile guidelines to completely remove the restrictions on the use of solid fuels for (South Korea's) space vehicle,” Kim Hyun-chong, deputy national security adviser, told reporters on Tuesday.
In 1979, South Korea agreed to Ballistic Missile Range Guidelines, limiting the country’s ballistic missile development and possession to 180km in range. In 2001, the U.S. agreed to extend the range limit to 300 km, which only applied to high-velocity, free flight ballistic missiles, excluding slower, surface-skimming cruise weapons.
The guidelines were last revised in 2017 to scrap a payload cap of 500kg for South Korea's ballistic missiles with ranges of 800km.
"Through the revision (of the guidelines), I would like to say a systemic foundation to improve our space infrastructure has been created, and a path has been opened for the Korean-version New Deal to expand into space. It would greatly advance the military's ISR capabilities by enabling it to launch low-earth orbit spy satellites, flying at the altitude of 500-2,000 kilometers, anytime and anywhere," the official noted.
Besides being cost- and fuel- efficient, solid-fuel rockets are faster to shoot and harder to detect ahead of take-off. These rockets are also less prone to metal corrosion. They are easier to launch from a transporter erector launcher (TEL).
The move paves way for South Korean companies, research institutes and even individuals to develop, produce and possess various types of space rockets, based on not only liquid fuels but also solid and hybrid ones.