S. Korea seeks U.S. approval to develop solid-fuel rocket for scientific research

Lim Chang-won Reporter Posted : 2018-11-12 18:10 Updated : 2018-11-12 18:10
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[Yonhap News Photo]

SEOUL -- Talks are under way between South Korea and the United States on easing restrictions on the use of solid fuel for rockets to be launched for civilian research programs, according to the South's foreign ministry.

The ministry declined to give details because rocket technology can be diverted to the development of ballistic missiles as North Korea did. "It is difficult to disclose specific details as negotiations are under way," a ministry official told reporters on Monday.

Liquid-propellant rockets offer more efficient and controllable alternatives, but solid rockets are used in military armament or as light launch vehicles because of simplicity and reliability. Japan has developed solid-fuel rockets.

A 2012 missile accord with Washington allowed Seoul to extend the range of its ballistic missiles to 800 kilometers (496 miles). In September last year, Trump allowed Seoul to deploy missiles that can fly for up to 800 km with no limit in its payload, but Washington still maintains tight restrictions on South Korea's rocket and nuclear development programs for fear of proliferation in Northeast Asia.

There has been slow progress in South Korea's space program as other countries are reluctant to transfer core technologies. Three space rockets have been launched but two fired in 2009 and 2010 failed to reach orbit. The third one using Russian technology put a satellite into orbit.