|Nuri, Korea's first locally-developed space rocket, lifts off from the Naro Space Center in Goheung, South Jeolla Province, Tuesday. Joint Press Corps|
Nation becomes 7th in world to put satellite into orbit
By Baek Byung-yeul
Korea reached a milestone of becoming one of the world's space powerhouses, Tuesday, as the nation succeeded in launching its first-ever locally-developed rocket into space in its second liftoff attempt, according to the science ministry.
The Nuri, also known as Korean Space Launch Vehicle II (KSLV-II), successfully placed a 1.3-ton dummy satellite and a 162.5-kilogram performance verification satellite into a low orbit of 700 kilometers above the Earth, the ministry said.
"Nuri, which was launched at 4 p.m. today, was put into target orbit and successfully separated and placed the performance verification satellite in orbit," Lee Jong-ho, minister of Science and ICT, said during a briefing at Naro Space Center in Goheung, 473 kilometers south of Seoul.
"We announce the success of Nuri, a locally-developed space launch vehicle. The skies over Korea have opened wide. The country has made great progress in science and technology," the minister added.
|The Nuri space rocket, launched from Naro Space Center in Goheung, South Jeolla Province, flies into space, Tuesday. Yonhap|
The Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) launched the Nuri space rocket at 4 p.m. According to the flight sequence, the first engine, second engine and the pairing separated before the rocket's third engine stopped at 4:13 p.m. to reach a target altitude of 700 kilometers.
The rocket separated from the performance verification satellite at 4:14 p.m. and the dummy satellite detached at 4:16 p.m. KARI's satellite control center then announced that Nuri successfully communicated with the King Sejong research station in Antarctica around 40 minutes after liftoff.
|Researchers at Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) celebrate the successful launch of the Nuri space rocket at the institute's satellite control center in Daejeon, Tuesday. Yonhap|
With the successful launch, Korea became the seventh country in the world to launch a space rocket using domestically developed technology following Russia, the United States, France, China, Japan and India to place an over 1-ton satellite into orbit.
"Korea now became the seventh country to launch our own space launch vehicle into space on our soil," the science minister said. "Our country is now able to advance into space whenever we want as we don't need to rent a launch site or space launch vehicle from other countries."
Revealing the future of the country's space development plan, the science minister said, "Nuri is scheduled for its third launch in the first half of 2023. This will be a more advanced version. Until 2027, a total of four liftoffs will be conducted."
|President Yoon Suk-yeol watches the Nuri space rocket's liftoff at his office in Yongsan, Seoul, Tuesday. Yonhap|
President Yoon Suk-yeol praised the successful launch of the locally-developed space rocket, saying "The success has paved the way for the nation to open a path to space."
"This is the outcome of 30 years of efforts despite difficult challenges," Yoon told researchers involved in the Nuri project in a video conference. "As I pledged during the presidential campaign, the government will set up an aerospace agency and provide systematic support for the aerospace industry."
The locally-developed rocket had to overcome lots of hurdles before the successful launch.
Since 2010, Korea has invested around 2 trillion won ($1.54 billion) into the Nuri development project with an aim of securing Korea's own space transport capability.
About 500 KARI researchers and 300 domestic companies, including Hanwha Aerospace, made the engine of the three-stage rocket that weighs 200 tons and stands 47.2 meters tall. Hyundai Heavy Industries constructed the launch pad.
During its first liftoff attempt in October 2021, the Nuri successfully lifted off and reached its target altitude, but failed to place a dummy satellite into orbit as its engine burned out 46 seconds earlier than expected.
KARI traced the problem to a loosened device that anchors a helium tank mounted inside the oxidizer tank in the third stage of the rocket.
For the second attempt, the institute improved the helium tank by strengthening the anchor on the lower support and reinforcing the thickness of the manhole cover.
However, Nuri had to go through two delays before the June 21 launch. It was originally scheduled to be placed on the launch pad on June 14, a day before launch, but KARI and the science ministry decided to delay the schedule by one day after strong winds at the launch site raised safety concerns.
On June 15, the locally-developed rocket was successfully placed on the launch pad, but the liftoff was called off again after engineers detected abnormalities while checking level sensors on the oxidizer tank in the first stage of the rocket.
On Monday, the launch management committee, KARI and the science ministry concluded that Nuri's final technological inspection proceeded without any glitches.
"I would like to express my sincere gratitude to KARI researchers, officials at more than 300 companies who joined the development project and the people who continued to support us," the science minister said.