South Korea prepares for second space rocket attempt

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: People watch TV broadcasts of news reports of the launch of the KSLV-II NURI rocket from the Naro Space Center launch pad at a train station in Seoul, South Korea, October 21, 2021.REUTERS/Kim Hongki/File photo

Josh Smith

SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korea will conduct a second test launch of its homegrown Nuri space rocket on Tuesday, eight months after the first test successfully launched but failed to put a fake satellite into orbit.

The rocket was erected on the launch pad at the Naru Space Center on South Korea’s southern coast on Monday. The test was scheduled to take place last week, but was called off hours before launch due to a problem with the oxidizer tank sensor.

Officials will decide on Tuesday afternoon whether to proceed.

The three-stage KSLV-II Nuri rocket, designed by the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI), which ultimately delivers a 1.5-ton payload into orbit 600 to 800 kilometers above Earth, is the cornerstone of the country’s launch of its space program and programs. Achieving ambitious goals in terms of 6G networks, spy satellites and even lunar probes.

It uses only South Korean rocket technology and is the country’s first domestically produced space launch vehicle. South Korea’s last booster, launched in 2013, was developed jointly with Russia after multiple delays and failed tests.

Nuri is the key to South Korea’s plans to eventually build the country’s satellite navigation system and 6G communications network. The country also plans to launch a series of military satellites, but officials deny that Nuri could be used as a weapon.

South Korea is also working with the United States to develop a lunar orbiter and hopes to land a probe on the moon by 2030.

Space launches have long been a sensitive issue on the Korean peninsula, which faces sanctions over its nuclear-armed ballistic missile program.

In March, South Korea’s military alone oversaw what it said was the first successful launch of a solid-fuel space launch rocket, another part of its plan to launch a spy satellite.

During Nuri’s first test in October, the rocket completed its flight sequence but failed to deliver the test payload into orbit because its third-stage engine burned out earlier than planned.

According to Yonhap News Agency, engineers adjusted the helium tank inside the Nuri’s third-stage oxidizer tank to fix the problem.

In Tuesday’s test, the stakes will be higher because, in addition to a virtual satellite, Nuri will carry a rocket performance verification satellite and four cubesats developed by the university for research.

KARI has said it plans to conduct at least four more test launches by 2027.

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