Locally-developed rocket fails to place dummy satellite into orbit

Asia's Tech News Daily

President says country hopes to succeed in 2nd trial in May

By Baek Byung-yeul, Joint Press Corps

Locally-developed rocket fails to place dummy satellite into orbit

The Naro space rocket is lifted at the Naro Space Center in Goheung, South Jeolla Province, Thursday. Joint Press Corps

South Korea achieved a “half success” with its Nuri space launch vehicle, Thursday, as the country’s first locally-developed rocket successfully lifted off but failed to place a dummy satellite into orbit.

While the intended outcome was not realized, the government and experts said the test launch has helped the country secure core engine technologies that will pave the way for the country to take a step closer to joining the league of global space powerhouses.

Nuri, also known as the Korean Satellite Launch Vehicle II (KSLV II), lifted off from Goheung, 500 kilometers south of Seoul, and flew to its target altitude of 700 kilometers. However, the 1.5-ton dummy satellite failed to detach and be placed into orbit.

Weighing 200 tons and measuring 47.2 meters long, the three-stage Nuri is powered by six liquid-fuelled engines ― a cluster of four in its first stage, and single engines in its second and third stages. The government spent 2 trillion won ($1.6 billion) in development costs.

The Ministry of Science and ICT said the KSLV II was launched from the Naro Space Center in Goheung, at 5 p.m., and while its first, second and third stages separated as planned, it failed to place the payload into orbit at an altitude of 700 kilometers.

President Moon Jae-in, who visited the launch site, said he expects the country will be able to achieve a complete success at its second trial launch scheduled for May 2022.

“The Nuri didn’t perfectly attain its goal, but it has done a very good job in its first launch,” he said. “If we check things and make up for what we lacked today, we will surely achieve a perfect success in our second launch in May next year.”

“Satellites are increasingly used not only for broadcasting, communication and GPS, but also for environmental and disaster responses. We already manufacture and operate practical satellites on our own, but we have had to use launch vehicles from other countries. Now we can put our satellites into space with our own launch vehicles,” the President said.

Moon added that the launch of the Nuri will pave the way for the country to become a prominent player in the space industry, saying a country spearheading development in the space industry will lead the future.

Scientist analyzed that the launch of the Nuri rocket will increase attention in the aerospace industry.

“It is difficult to quantitatively evaluate the economic ripple effect of the Nuri space rocket for various industrial fields,” an official from the science ministry said. “Securing independent space transportation means the country is now able to launch satellites at any time, and thus we can expect various economic and industrial effects.”

Locally-developed rocket fails to place dummy satellite into orbit

Though the three-stage KSLV II had been scheduled for launch at 4:00 p.m., this was delayed for an hour. “It took additional time to check valves inside the launch vehicle,” the science ministry said in explaining the delay.

The ministry said that the three-stage rocket is scheduled for a second test launch in May, 2022. After this, the Nuri will have four additional launches through 2027 to improve its reliability. When the tests are completed, Korea will be able to launch satellites at any time, a huge difference from its current status of having to pay other countries to put payloads into orbit.

Officials noted that the Nuri/KSLV II was the result of collaborations across local industries, academia and research institutes, and hundreds of local researchers and engineers took part in the development project.

Led by the state-run Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI), around 300 companies have taken part in the project. In particular, Hanwha Aerospace led the development of the liquid-fueled rocket engines, and the Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) and Doowon Heavy Industrial took part in developing the rocket’s external structure. The mobile launching platform was developed by Hyundai Heavy Industries.

Korea is a global technology powerhouse ― home to the world’s top two memory chipmakers Samsung and SK Hynix, and top-tier automaker Hyundai Motor Group. However, it lags far behind its global peers in terms of advancements into developing space exploration.

The country attempted to launch a rocket in 2009 and 2010, but these attempts were in vain with the second one exploding just minutes after take-off. In 2013, Korea successfully launched its first-ever Naro space rocket but its first stage was built in Russia.

Government officials said there are plans to send a probe to the moon by 2030.

“Now, the era of new space has opened. Over the past decade, the global space industry has more than doubled, and space development itself has become an industry. It is already taking place in reality that ordinary people are sightseeing in space. A country ahead of space development will lead the future. The government will invest in the long run so that Korea can leap into a space powerhouse,” Moon said.

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