South Korea's first homegrown Nuri rocket lifts off from the Naro Space Center in Goheung, South Jeolla Province on Oct. 21, 2021. (Yonhap)
South Korea’s first homegrown rocket Nuri will go for a second launch in June, aiming to complete the full launch sequence this time, the Ministry of Science and ICT said Friday.
The first liftoff, which took place in October last year, came short of a successful mission as the rocket’s third stage engine shut down earlier than planned. The dummy satellite could not reach sufficient orbital speed as a result. The early stages of the launch were deemed successful as the three-stage liquid-fueled rocket reached a low orbit of 700 kilometers above the ground.
After about two months of review, government officials and experts concluded in December that the loosening of a fixture that holds the rocket’s helium tank blocked Nuri from a successful launch.
The ministry said that officials at the Korea Aerospace Research Institute have come up with detailed measures to fix the problems with an evaluation team composed of outside experts from industry and academia.
“The main improvements will be changing the structure to strengthen the fixture of the helium tank’s lower support and enhance the lid so that Nuri can fly stably even in changing environments during flight,” said Kwon Hyun-joon, Director-General of the Space and Nuclear Energy Bureau at the science ministry.
As the third stage of the rocket that will be used for the second launch has already been assembled, the official explained that the KARI will have to dismantle parts for the the third stage, reassemble them and conduct airtight tests once the changes are made.
According to the ministry, it will take an additional month to complete the process, pushing back the original launch date from May to June.
“The second launch date is June 15 and the preliminary launch dates are between June 16 and 23. The launch management committee will finalize the launch date in consideration of weather conditions in the future,” said Kwon.
Regarding the third launch of the Nuri rocket slated for December, the official said postponement of the event is inevitable to early next year, as the assembling of the rocket for the third launch will have to take place after the second launch, which has been delayed for a month.
If the second launch ends in a success, South Korea will become the seventh country in the world with independent capabilities to launch a satellite weighing over 1 ton into orbit, joining the space race against the US, the EU, Japan, Russia, China and India.
Meanwhile, the government on Friday announced that it will invest 734 billion won ($610 million) into space development this year, up 18.9 percent from the previous year.
The planned projects include securing next-generation projectile technology, launching two satellites and the Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter -- the country’s first space probe -- in the second half of this year and beginning the development of the Korean Positioning System.
By Kan Hyeong-woo (firstname.lastname@example.org