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October 22, 2021

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SK bid to put dummy satellite in orbit fails

SOUTH Korea test-launched its first homegrown space launch vehicle but the rocket failed to put a dummy satellite into the low-Earth orbit (600-800km).

The KSLV-II, dubbed Nuri, blasted off from the Naro Space Center in the southern coastal village of Goheung at 5pm local time yesterday, live footage from the Korea Aerospace Research Institute showed.

After the liftoff, the three-stage space rocket flew south to reach an altitude of 59km in the first thrust section and an altitude of 600km at about 5:08pm. The third-stage booster engine stopped at 5:12pm, and the satellite was separated from the booster at 5:15pm.

However, the 1.5-ton satellite failed to be put into the sun-synchronous orbit as planned.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in said in a televised speech that the homegrown rocket finished all of its flight sequences, but noted that putting the satellite into orbit remained an unfinished task.

Moon said it was something to brag about to send the rocket up at an altitude of 700km in space, expecting that the next test-launch of Nuri, scheduled for May, could achieve complete success. It was South Korea’s first test-launch of its homegrown rocket that was designed and built in the country.

South Korea invested nearly 2 trillion won (US$1.7 billion) for the past decade to indigenously develop the space launch vehicle, including the engine and propellant tank, as well as the launch pad and launch vehicle subsystem.

About 300 local companies, including some 30 major firms comprising around 500 people, participated in the development of the space vehicle that can deploy a 1.5-ton practical satellite into the low-Earth orbit.

The 200-ton Nuri space rocket, which measures 47.2 meters in length and 3.5 meters in maximum diameter, was clustered by four 75-ton-grade liquid engines in the first stage, a 75-ton-grade liquid engine in the second stage and a 7-ton-grade liquid engine in the third stage.

The homegrown space rocket development project began in March 2010, and the country successfully test-launched its indigenous 75-ton-grade liquid engine, called KSLV-TLV, in November 2018.

KARI plans to test-launch the Nuri space launch vehicle five more times by 2027 to secure reliability.

In the long term, KARI plans to enhance the Nuri performance to carry a 2.8-ton satellite into the low orbit by developing a higher-performance main engine of 82-ton-grade thrust.

It also aims to test-launch the enhanced space launch vehicle twice in 2029 and 2030, and secure an 830kg Moon probe launch performance by 2030.

In January 2013, South Korea succeeded in test-launching its first-ever KSLV-I space launch vehicle but the first-stage booster engine of the two-stage vehicle was built in Russia.


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