Space launch technology is very similar to the missile technology. For example, these components are the same in both
- Manufacture of rocket propellant (solid and liquid);
- Manufacture of rocket engines (solid and liquid);
- Manufacture of air frames, motor cases, liners, and insulation;
- Manufacture of thrust vector control systems;
- Manufacture of exhaust nozzles;
- Manufacture of staging mechanisms;
- Manufacture of payload separation mechanisms;
- Manufacture of strap-on boosters;
- Manufacture of ground support and launch equipment;
- How to conduct system integration;
- How to conduct failure analysis and testing of components.
A country that knows how to create a missile would also have the wherewithal to send a satellite in space.
An ICBM is a space launcher whose orbit intersects the earth. Once a country is able to deploy a large satellite in a precise orbit, it has mastered the technologies needed to hit a major city with a ballistic missile.
The only difference between the space launch technology and missile technology is the re-entry mechanism, where the re-entry vehicle should be capable of surviving the stress of passing through the atmosphere.
However, if one has created the scientific and technical capability indigenously then figuring the re-entry part out should not be that tough.
In other words, if you have a Space program, having a Missile program comes easy. On the other hand, if a country simply has missiles but no space program, then one can assume that those missiles were procured from somewhere else.
Pakistan, for example, has not even made an attempt to have a real space launch capability even when it would masquerade as having an indigenous ICBM missile technology.
How is that even possible?
And the answer lies in the book titled Goodbye Shahzadi by Indian journalist Shyam Bhatia. Bhatia attended Oxford with Benazir. She told him this story over a round of drinks one evening and made him swear that he won’t leak it out until she is alive. She died in December 2007, and Bhatia released the book in 2008.
Benazir Bhutto went personally to Pyongyang to deliver Nuclear secrets to North Korea in CDs. For that purpose, she shopped for a specific overcoat.
“As she (Bhutto) was due to visit North Korea at the end of 1993, she was asked and readily agreed to carry critical nuclear data on her person and hand it over on arrival in Pyongyang …before leaving Islamabad, she shopped for an overcoat with the ‘deepest possible pockets’ into which she transferred CDs containing the scientific data about uranium enrichment that the North Koreans wanted.” (Source
So Pakistan gave North Korea the nuclear secrets. Why? What did North Korea give Pakistan. Well, it was a barter deal.
North Korea gave Pakistan the Nodong missiles, and Pakistan gave North Korea the nuclear secrets.
cost of purchasing the first dozen Nodongs was estimated at a massive USD three billion, and with Pakistan short of cash the speculation at the time was that Islamabad and Pyongyang had agreed a barter deal to exchange uranium enrichment technologies for missiles. (Source
Here is the funny thing - both, the nuclear technology and the missile technology that these basket economies bartered were not produced by them. They got them from China!
When India did the Nuclear blast in 1998, the Pakistanis did not detonate their nukes for 15 days. Their Army team was in China during that time.
The running joke over the emails used to be - pre-WhatsApp period - that the reason why it took so long for the Pakistanis to do the test was because “the manual was in Chinese!”.