South Korea in Independent Orbit

South Korea in Independent Orbit

On 21 June, for the first time, a launcher completely designed and manufactured in South Korea successfully placed a satellite in orbit. KSLV-2 was successful after a failure in October 2021.

Established in 1989, KARI (Korea Aerospace Research Institute) is South Korea’s aerospace research institute, which is responsible for giving the country autonomy in the field. So, in December 1999, Arirang-1 (or KOMPSAT-1) became the first satellite essentially built by South Korean teams. However, an American launcher, Taurus, was used to place it in orbit.

Independent Access to Space

The following stage became the desire to obtain independent access to space. South Korea first turned to a partnership with Russia for the development of KSLV-1, for Korean Space Launch Vehicle, also known as Naro-1. After two failures in 2009 and 2010, Naro-1 reached orbit on 30 January 2013 to place the satellite STSat-2C in orbit.
The KARI programme then opted for complete autonomy with KSLV-2 or Nuri (which, in Korean, means world) with three stages, all designed and built nationally. The inaugural launch on 21 October 2021 ended in failure, the third stage stopping operation too early.
But on 21 June 2022, KSLV-2 was successful. For the first time, a fully South Korean launcher reached orbit at an altitude of 700 km from the Earth, placing in orbit a test satellite of 1.3 tonnes and 162 kg which will soon release four small satellites from universities. Below, several views of the take-off (KARI video).

KSLV-2 or Nuri is a launcher 47.2 m high and 200 tonnes at take-off. The propulsion of its three stages uses kerosene and liquid oxygen.
South Korea can thus, independently, place in a low orbit of 300 km up to 2.6 tonnes or 1.5 tonnes at 600-800 km. Earth observation satellites would appear to be the main use of this launcher, but an improved version is due to send a KARI rover to the Moon by 2030.