|The third Nuri space rocket blasts off from Naro Space Center in Goheung, South Jeolla Province, Thursday. Yonhap|
By Baek Byung-yeul
Korea's science ministry aims to launch the next Nuri space rocket in 2025, aiming to send a next-generation medium-size satellite into space. In the third launch of the domestically developed rocket, also known as Korean Space Launch Vehicle II (KSLV II), it successfully placed NEXTSAT-2, a small satellite weighing 179.9 kilograms, in geosynchronous orbit on May 25.
The Ministry of Science and ICT said Monday that the fourth Nuri launch will put a much larger 500-kilogram satellite in orbit.
Korea has tried to put next-generation medium-sized satellites in orbit twice ― the first one was launched in March 2021 by Russia's Soyuz launch vehicle from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, and the second one was scheduled to be launched in September 2022, also on a Russian launch vehicle, but was canceled due to the Russia-Ukraine war.
The medium-sized satellite will be developed by Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI), while the previous two were co-developed by the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) and KAI, a private company.
The planned medium-size satellite will be used to conduct cell culture experiments in space, measuring space plasma and magnetic fields and demonstrating a wide-field atmospheric light observation camera for space.
"As the only company in Korea that has performed the entire process, we are very proud of the success of the May 25 launch," a KAI spokesperson said. "We will contribute to the successful fourth, fifth and sixth KSLV launches through detailed process management and strict quality control."
The fifth and sixth Nuri launches, scheduled for 2026 and 2027, will carry ultra-small satellites weighing less than 100 kilograms. They will carry high-resolution cameras capable of distinguishing objects one meter in size on the Earth's surface.
The rocket set for launch in 2027 is likely to carry satellites with robotic arms, which the science ministry plans to develop in the near future. These satellites will use their robotic arms to collect space debris, such as obsolete satellites.
At a meeting of the Space Development Promotion Working Committee in March, the ministry said it plans to develop technologies to enable rendezvous and docking with satellites using robotic arms, adding it will conduct a test in space by 2027.
"We have submitted a budget proposal to the National Assembly that includes a plan to load a satellite with robotic arms on the Nuri space rocket to be launched in 2027. If the budget proposal is passed, the development plan of the satellite will be finalized," a ministry spokesman said.