Mass production of satellites ‘Economies of scale’ to develop launch vehicles, bold investment is urgently needed
Although bad news such as the launch of the Nuri-ho and the successful development of multi-purpose satellites have been reported one after another, the reality is that the domestic space industry is still poor. Compared to advanced countries leading the space industry, both budget and technology are far insufficient. However, it is still too early to be discouraged. Experts agree that a ‘reversal’ can be achieved if we actively invest in R&D even now, as we have abundant potential capabilities.
First of all, it is urgent to achieve ‘economies of scale’ in the satellite and space service sectors. It is argued that mass production should be cost-competitive. Developed countries have already started mass-producing satellites. Compared to 2019, the number of manufacturing satellites worldwide increased by about 1,000 in 2020. Of these, 800 satellites were built by SpaceX, an American private space company. Through this process, the cost of manufacturing satellites has decreased significantly. Production costs per satellite in 2021 will be reduced by 90% compared to 2010.
Unlike foreign companies, where companies develop their own markets, most domestic companies depend only on a small amount of ‘public demand’ ordered by the government. As a result, even with the technological prowess, there is a situation where production is not possible. The global space market share of Korean companies is only 0.4%. Jo Si-yoon, Senior Research Fellow at the Future Strategy Research Institute at KDB Korea Development Bank, said, “For South Korea’s space industry competitors such as Australia and Canada, going to the moon is not the policy goal. The core goal is to create new industries and maximize economic effects through the development and utilization of related technologies. Korea should also actively promote space commercialization to raise its global space market share from 0.4% to 5%.”