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South Korea's space ambitions stuck on the launchpad

Second Nuri rocket stalls with problem similar to those that caused first mission to mostly fail

South Korea's ambition to launch a space industry on the back of a locally developed rocket have stalled, after a glitch saw the countdown halted for its latest attempt to place its Nuri vehicle into orbit.

The launch was planned for Wednesday, but postponed by a day due to unfavourable weather.

The Korea Aerospace and Research Institute tried again but, as the countdown progressed, an anomaly appeared in a first stage oxidizer tank. That issue was considered so serious that Nuri was returned to its assembly facility.

It's not hard to see why: the first Nuri, launched in October 2021, made it into space but did not deploy a dummy satellite as planned due to problems with an oxidizer tank that caused internal damage.

That failure, and this new failure to launch, are unwelcome obstacles to South Korea's desire to join the club of nations offering frequent launches for government and commercial payloads. If Nuri can fly successfully, it will see South Korea offer to hoist payloads weighing up to 1500kg into orbits of between 600km and 800km.

That's not an enormous capability, so the nation already has a larger successor to Nuri on the drawing board – along with plans to launch a lunar orbiter. Just has to get off the ground first. ®

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