Liftoff at last for South Korean space program

Satellite-deploying rocket finally launches – after a few setbacks

South Korea's Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) yesterday succeeded in its endeavor to send the home-grown Nuri launcher into space, then place a working satellite in orbit.

The launch was scheduled for earlier in June but was delayed by weather and then again by an anomaly in a first-stage oxidizer tank. Its October 2021 launch failed to deploy a dummy satellite, thanks to similar oxidizer tank problems that caused internal damage.

South Korea was late to enter the space race due to a Cold War-era agreement with the US, which prohibited it developing a space program. That agreement was set aside and yesterday's launch is the culmination of more than a decade of development. The flight puts South Korea in a select group of nations that have demonstrated the capability to build and launch domestically designed and built orbital-class rockets.

A statement from Korea's Ministry of Science and ICT titled "The opening of the Korean Space Age" celebrated the achievement – not only as a successful launch, but a new era of national space development.

Nuri's success ushers in the potential for many more future South Korean technologies – such as domestic satellite navigation systems, 6G communication and a military space presence.

The 47 meter rocket left Naro Space Center on time at 4:00PM on Tuesday (0700 Wednesday UTC), as shown here [VIDEO], and achieved 700km orbit. The rocket was carrying a test satellite equipped with a camera, a heating cell, a control moment gyro, an S-band antenna as well as a 1.3 tonne dummy satellite and four small cubesats provided by universities.

The test satellite, which will remain in orbit for two years, established contact with both a base station in Antarctica and the Daejeon Anti-Accident Ground Station. The cubesats will be launched at intervals over the next two days.

Remote commands synchronized satellite time with ground station time and activated the GPS receiver on the test satellite, MIST explained in another announcement. The ground station also received the orbital information needed for future three-axis attitude control.

KARI said it plans to carry out four additional launches of Nuri to "improve reliability" by 2027. The country also plans to launch a lunar orbiter in August 2023. ®

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