From Samsung’s smartphones to SK Hynix’s semiconductors, South Korean companies have spent decades catching up to — and in many cases then overtaking — powerful rivals from the U.S., Japan and other countries.

So far, the country has been an also-ran in the space industry, with weak funding and a few technology flops. But a new wave of government officials like Lee Jong-ho is betting that history could repeat itself.

The country’s minister of science and technologies, Lee oversees a new space agency that was launched Monday with a mission to propel South Korea into the ranks of major space nations. The government is planning to double the current annual space budget by 2027 to 1.5 trillion won ($1.1 billion).