What is Nuri, and when and where was it launched?
South Korea successfully launched a satellite into orbit with its homegrown Nuri rocket, a significant step for the country's burgeoning space program after a failed attempt last year. Nuri, which means "pioneering a new world to the universe," made its second launch at 16:00 on June 21st, 2022, at the Goheung Naro Space Center in South Jeolla Province. Nuri is a rocket developed by the KARI(Korea Aerospace Research Institute) in 2022 under the KSLV (Korea Space Launch Vehicle) plan and it is Korea's first low-orbit practical satellite launch rocket. With the launch of Nuri, Korea became the 11th country in the world to launch a self-propelled space rocket and the 7th with the ability to put a satellite weighing a ton and heavier into orbit.
What efforts has Korea made for the space industry so far?
For the successful launch of Nuri, the KARI had invested 1.9572 trillion won for 10 years from 2010, and finally came to fruition. It was never an easy task to launch a projectile into space on our own. The "Nuri Launch Project" is a longterm research and development project that began in 2010 with the aim of securing projectile technology that can put 1.5 tons of a practical satellite into a 700-kilometer low Earth orbit.
In 2013, with the help of Russian technology, unlike Naro (Korea's First Space Launch Vehicle), which succeeded in launching after three attempts, Nuri was developed from beginning to end with the power of domestic research institutes and companies. On October 21st, 2021, the first launch of Nuri went smoothly overall, but it remained a “regrettable success” as the last satellite failed to settle in orbit. Researchers including the KARI prepared for the second launch by solving technical problems at the time of the first launch. The fixed device of the lower support part of the helium tank was strengthened, and the thickness of the cover covering the upper part of the oxidizer tank was reinforced. The design was changed to increase the thickness of the cover and to better withstand its load. The acceleration was supplemented to withstand 1.5 times the calculated load.
In February 2022, the South Korean government postponed the second launch schedule to June 14th to assemble the aircraft reflecting its change of design. On the 14th, Nuri moved from the maintenance area of the Naro Space Center in Goheung, South Jeolla Province to the launch site, and was scheduled to be launched on the 15th after standing it up and checking. However, as the wind blew strongly on the site on the 14th, the transfer and launch schedule were delayed by one day in consideration of the safety of workers who had to work with the 47-meterhigh Nuri. On the 15th, the transfer and standing work were carried out without any problems, but another problem was revealed during the inspection after Nuri stood up: an error in the level sensor mounted on the oxidizer tank. After the normal operation of the sensor was confirmed, the Ministry of Science and ICT and KARI scheduled a new launch on the 21st. Weather conditions such as rain and wind during this period were forecasted to be worse than the launch date, but it was judged that it was not at a level that hindered the work.
How is the Korean space industry proceeding after Nuri?
In order to increase the reliability of Nuri by 2027, a project to upgrade the Korean launch vehicle will be carried out by carrying our own satellites on Nuri and launching them four more times. In addition, following the successful launch of Nuri, it is said that Nuri 3 is in the process of assembling with the goal of launching in 2023.
On August 5th, 2022, SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket, carrying the Danuri lunar orbiter, was successfully launched in space. It is to conduct surface photography, geological exploration, and geological research around the moon. The KSLV-III, the next-generation projectile, is scheduled to be completed by 2030. A total of 1.93 trillion won will be spent. The KSLV-III will improve its transportation capacity and reuse projectiles like SpaceX. The Ministry of Science and ICT (MSIT) is pushing with the first launch in 2030 and plans to develop a lunar landing vehicle and ship it to KSLV-III in 2031. Some predict that space development led by private companies could be activated in the future as more than 300 private companies that participated in the development of Nuri have acquired related technology and know-hows and have a foundation for spacecraft development.