The Apophis investigation in South Korea has been canceled

South Korea is moving on with its drive to be a worldwide space and military power, with the support of the private sector, in order to strengthen defenses against North Korea while also reviving the home industry. South Korea has abandoned plans to build a robotic spacecraft to accompany asteroid Apophis during its close encounter with Earth in 2029, citing a “lack of technical capability.”

The science ministry, which oversees government-funded space programs, recently declared the mission “unfeasible” and chose not to seek the $307.7 million money it had requested. Between July 2026 to January 2027, a robotic spacecraft was launched to follow Apophis as it whizzed past Earth in April 2029. The probe would track Apophis the entire journey, checking for structural changes caused by the planet’s gravitational pull. The mission, if carried out, will assist in “solid the foundation of the nation’s space industry and improving associated skills,” according to then-President Moon Jae-in of South Korea in March 2021.

“We chose not to pursue the Apophis probe mission since there were a number of obstacles that made the project difficult to complete,” a science ministry official, Shin Won-sik, told SpaceNews. “We need to deploy a spacecraft by 2027 at the earliest to probe Apophis.  However, given our current rocket and spacecraft-building capabilities, launching on time is a pipe dream.”

Even though the Apophis expedition was canceled, the official stated that this does not rule out the possibility of future asteroid missions in South Korea. Rather, he added, the administration feels compelled to devise a “clear plan” for conducting a study of another asteroid that would approach Earth after Apophis.

“In the second half of the year, we will begin work on the fourth update of the Basic Plan for Space Development Promotion.  And it’s possible that the new plan will feature a more specific and practical asteroid mission plan [than the third revision],” Shin stated.

The third revision, which was revealed in February 2018, was merely a sketch of a plan with few specifics. “By 2035, a spacecraft for an asteroid sample-return mission would launch using the country’s capabilities,” it stated. By launching the country’s first lunar orbiter in the year 2022 and a robotic lunar landing by 2030, the plan believed South Korea will be able to secure the requisite technologies and capabilities. The lunar orbiter is on track to launch on Aug. 3 from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station facility in Florida, using a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. The projected creation of a lunar lander or even a rocket capable of delivering a domestically constructed probe on an intercept trajectory with an oncoming asteroid has made relatively little progress.

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