(24 Jun 2021) Korean Air has confirmed that 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 of Science and ICT plans to invest a total of KRW 211.5 billion 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 KRW 32 billion, Korean Air has formed an industry and academic consortium with the Korea Aerospace Research Institute, NDT Engineering & Aerospace and Korea Aerospace University to develop the tanks for small satellite launch vehicles by 2026.
The common bulkhead propellant tank combines fuel and oxidizer tanks into a single tank using the latest metal welding and insulation technology.
The new technology increases the competitiveness of the small satellite launch vehicle market in Korea, as it will reduce the number of satellite launch vehicle parts, simplify structures and decrease vehicle weights by 30%.
As such, the tanks are expected to dramatically reduce the cost of sending 500-kg small and medium- sized satellites or small satellite constellations into Earth’s low orbit.
The small satellite launch vehicle market is expected to grow rapidly worldwide. SpaceX has already launched 1,000 400- kg satellites and plans to launch up to 12,000 more in the future. Global IT companies such as Amazon and Facebook are also planning to launch hundreds of small and medium-sized satellites.
Korean Air will manage the risk and quality assurance system as well as testing and evaluation for certification. The developed common bulkhead propellant tank will be used as a major component of a 500-kg small satellite launch vehicle, which is to be developed by Korean Air and the Korea Aerospace Research Institute.
In 2012, Korean Air developed and assembled Korea’s first space launch vehicle, Naro (KSLV-1), and the company has core technology capabilities such as aircraft system integration and aircraft structure development.
Through the successful launching of the project, Korean Air plans to contribute to the development of Korea’s space industry and strengthen the industry’s global competitiveness.