South Korea’s space program finally takes off • The Register

South Korea’s Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) yesterday succeeded in its attempt to send the Nuri launch vehicle into space and then place a functioning satellite in orbit.

The launch was scheduled earlier in June but was delayed by weather conditions 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 issues that caused internal damage.

South Korea was slow to enter the space race due to a Cold War-era agreement with the United States that prohibited it from developing a space program. That deal has been canceled and yesterday’s launch is the culmination of more than a decade of development. The flight puts South Korea in a select group of countries that have demonstrated the ability to build and launch domestically designed and built orbital-class rockets.

A statement by Korea’s Ministry of Science and ICT titled “The Opening of the Korean Space Age” celebrated the achievement – not just as a successful launch, but as a new era of national space development.

Nuri’s success paves the way for many other future South Korean technologies, such as domestic satellite navigation systems, 6G communication and a military presence in space.

The 47-meter rocket left Naro Space Center on time at 4:00 p.m. Tuesday (07:00 a.m. Wednesday UTC), as shown here [VIDEO], and reaches 700 km of orbit. The rocket carried a test satellite equipped with a camera, heating cell, control moment gyroscope, S-band antenna as well as a 1.3 ton dummy satellite and four small cubesats provided by universities.

The test satellite, which will remain in orbit for two years, has made contact with a base station in Antarctica and the Daejeon Crash Ground Station. The cubesats will be launched at regular intervals over the next two days.

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

KARI said it plans to conduct four more Nuri launches to “improve reliability” by 2027. The country also plans to launch a lunar orbiter in August 2023. ®

Ryan H. Bowman