[Photo provided by KARI]
South Korea on Thursday successfully lifted off its homegrown space rocket Nuri for a third time after a second launch in June, proving the country’s ability to operate a space vehicle.
“The third launch of the Nuri space rocket has been successfully completed at Naro Space Center in Goheung, South Jeolla Province, at 6:24 p.m. on Thursday,” said Science and ICT Minister Lee Jong-ho.
Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol also lauded the success, saying that “the launch placed Korea among the top seven countries that have put domestically produced satellites into orbit with their domestically built space launch vehicles.”
“This will greatly change how the world sees Korea’s space science technology and advanced industry,” he said.
Unlike the previous two launches with dummy satellites, the third round carried eight commercial-grade satellites to test the rocket’s capabilities.
The eight microsatellites that carry out their own specific mission, such as space weather observation, have been deployed into orbit.
The main commercial-grade satellite NEXTSat 2 was developed and manufactured by Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST). The satellite will be used for scientific observation and monitoring conditions at the ground and the space over the next two years.
The Nuri rocket completed all its flight stages, consisting of serial separations.
The first-stage rocket separated 123 seconds after the launch at an altitude of 64.5 kilometers (km), followed by its fairing and second-stage rocket separations at altitudes of 209 km and 263 km, respectively.
[Photo provided by KARI]
The main payload separation for NEXTSat 2 occurred just 783 seconds at an altitude of 550 km after the launch. After 803 seconds from the launch, subsequent separations for the remaining seven microsatellites, including Justek and Lumir-T1, were completed every 20 seconds.
The main challenge was to release the satellites into the target orbit in order while preventing them from conflict.
“It’s our first time to test this new approach, and it proved to be successful,” Ko Jung-hwan, a senior official from the KARI.
NEXTSat 2 made its first communication with the King Sejong Station in Antarctica some 40 minutes following the launch. Its second communications were made with the ground station of the KAIST.
The analysis of the data sent from the rocket found that the third launch was successful by pulling the satellites into orbit at an altitude of 550 km with a speed of 7.6 km per second.
As of 9:10 p.m. on Thursday, the KARI had communicated with three of the eight satellites.
The latest launch will likely serve as the beginning of a new era where the private sector takes the lead in spacecraft advances, industry sources said.
Hanwha Aerospace Co. participated in the launch preparation and operation processes. In order to develop a homegrown space industry, the company will lead the production of three Nuri vehicles for the next three launches while learning technological capabilities.
In addition to Hanwha Aerospace, about 300 local companies also joined the latest launch.
By Ko Jae-won, Park In-hye, and Han Yubin
[ⓒ Pulse by Maeil Business Newspaper & mk.co.kr, All rights reserved]