South Korea on Thursday failed to put a dummy satellite into orbit with its first homegrown rocket, dealing a setback to the country’s decade-long project to join the elite global space club.
The KSLV-II rocket, also known as Nuri, flew to a target altitude of 700 km but failed to place the 1.5-tonne dummy satellite into orbit, President Moon Jae-in said in a press briefing at the Naro Space Centre in the southern coastal village of Goheung.
“The test-launch of Nuri-ho was completed. I am proud of it… Regrettably, we did not perfectly reach the goal, but we made a very creditable achievement in the first launch,” he said.
The failure underscores the challenges of sending a satellite into orbit, a space launch vehicle technology that South Korea has been seeking to acquire for more than a decade for its space program.
So far, only six countries – Russia, the US, France, China, Japan and India – have developed a space launch vehicle that can carry a more than 1-tonne satellite.
Moon said South Korea plans to conduct another launch of the Nuri space rocket next year
South Korea’s rocket launches ended in failure in 2009 and 2010.
In 2013, South Korea successfully launched its first-ever Naro space rocket, though its first stage was built in Russia.
The three-stage Nuri rocket uses a clustering of four 75-tonne liquid engines in its first stage, a 75-tonne liquid engine in the second stage and a 7-tonne liquid engine in the third stage.
South Korea has invested nearly 2 trillion won ($1.8 billion) in building the three-stage Nuri since 2010.
The whole process of the launch was carried out with homegrown technology, including design, production, testing and launch operation.
The launch came amid tensions over North Korea’s test-firing of a new submarine launched ballistic missile (SLBM) on Tuesday, the latest in a series of missile launches by the North.