South Korea joins elite space club as 7th member

South Korea’s Nuri space rocket took off from the Naro Space Center in Goheung, South Jeolla Province, on Tuesday. (Yonhap)

The successful launch of South Korea’s Nuri space rocket, officially called Korea Space Launch Vehicle-II, made the country the seventh country in the world to develop a space launch vehicle that can carry a satellite weighing more than one ton. The list begins with Russia, the United States and France. China, Japan and India then joined the exclusive club of space nations.

Since launching its first space rocket development mission in the early 1990s, it has taken Asia’s fourth-largest economy almost 30 years to prove its ability to develop and launch a space vehicle carrying a local satellite. Advances in the country’s space technology are expected to further bolster its ambition to land on the moon by 2031.

The complete success comes eight months after the partial success of the first Nuri rocket launch attempt, which flew to a target altitude of 700 kilometers but failed to orbit a 1.5-tonne dummy satellite as its third-stage engine flamed out. earlier than expected. But it marked an important turning point for South Korea, as the entire process, including design, manufacturing, testing and launching, was carried out with purely domestic technology.

With the investment of 1.96 trillion won ($1.52 billion) in the development of Nuri since 2010, more than 300 domestic enterprises including Hanwha Aerospace have participated in the development and assembly of the rocket.

A latecomer

South Korea is relatively late in the race for global space development.

The country’s rocket development program had been limited by the United States’ 1979 bilateral missile guidelines, which were reiterated in 1990. In 1999, the United States removed range limits on unused private rockets for military purposes. At a summit in May, the two allies agreed to remove restrictions altogether, allowing full autonomy in South Korea’s efforts to develop a space launch vehicle.

As early as 1993, South Korea was able to launch its first domestic rocket, but the first-stage solid-fuel rocket failed to reach orbit. In 2002, the first liquid-powered rocket, the KSR-3, was launched.

In 2013, after two failures and four delays between 2005 and 2010, the Naro rocket was successfully launched, placing the Naro Science Satellite into low Earth orbit. Naro relied on Russia for major technologies, but the experience accumulated in the development process became the basis for technological independence.

In 2018, the launch of a test launcher was successfully completed, verifying the performance of the 75 ton engine that would be used for the Nuri rocket.

In October last year, the first launch of the Nuri rocket was carried out. The Nuri, a three-stage liquid-powered rocket developed from domestic technology, managed to separate the first stage, shroud, and second stage, but it failed to tune the satellite simulator to its orbital path. The second test was originally scheduled for last Thursday, but was postponed to Tuesday after a technical issue was discovered just before launch.

And after

The country is also planning its first lunar orbit project, titled Danuri, which is scheduled to lift off Aug. 2 from Florida. Danuri’s goals include identifying potential landing sites for future lunar missions, demonstrating and verifying space-based internet technologies, and conducting scientific surveys of the environment, topography, and resources on the moon.

After launch, Danuri’s team will work with NASA to track a ballistic lunar transfer to enter the moon’s 100-kilometre orbit by December. If the Danuri launch and missions are completed, South Korea will also become the seventh country in the world to have successfully completed a lunar probe mission.

Market experts have also estimated that with the successful launch of Nuri, the government’s plan to develop the Naro Space Center located in Goheung, South Jeolla Province – 473 kilometers south of Seoul – will receive a blow. inch.
In 2009, the Naro Space Center was established in Goheung for active and independent research on space development, making it the 13th country in the world with a space center.

By 2031, the government intends to inject 892 billion won into 21 projects in seven sectors, such as the establishment of space development infrastructure, a space launcher R&D center and a rocket park. space theme. He plans to land on the Moon the same year.

By Kim Da-sol ([email protected])