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South Korea’s top airline to develop propellant tank for smallsat launcher

SEOUL, South Korea — Korean Air, South Korea’s biggest airline, says it will develop common bulkhead propellant tanks for small satellite launch vehicles as part of the Ministry of Science and ICT’s “Space Pioneer” project.

The ministry plans to invest 211.5 billion won ($186.6 million) by 2030 in the “Space Pioneer” project, which aims to strengthen the global competitiveness of the domestic aerospace industry by reducing dependence on overseas products. 

With a budget of 32 billion won, Korean Air has formed an industry and academic consortium with the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI), NDT Engineering and Aerospace, and Korea Aerospace University to develop common bulkhead propellant tanks for small satellite launch vehicles by 2026. Korean Air will manage the risk and quality assurance system as well as testing and evaluation for certification. 

The common bulkhead propellant tank combines fuel and oxidizer tanks into a single tank using the latest metal welding and insulation technology. The common bulkhead propellant tank is expected to dramatically reduce the cost of sending 500-kg small- and medium-sized satellites or small satellite constellations into Earth’s low orbit.

In 2012, Korean Air developed and assembled Korea’s first space launch vehicle, KSLV-1, and the company has core technology capabilities such as aircraft system integration and aircraft structure development.

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