The 200-ton, three-stage liquid-fueled rocket lifted off from the Naro Space Center on the country’s southern coast at 5 p.m. local time before releasing a dummy satellite into orbit about 700 kilometers (435 miles) above Earth, live TV broadcast of the launch showed.
The rocket was developed by Korea Aerospace Research Institute, the country’s equivalent to the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration. It marked a major advancement over South Korea’s two-stage Naro space vehicle built with domestic and Russian technology, which was hit by delays and two failed launches before a successful flight in 2013.
“A country that leads in space development would get to lead the future,” said President Moon Jae-in, who watched the liftoff at the Naro Space Center. “We will make unwavering investments, having a long-term perspective, so that the Republic of Korea can leap forward as a space power.”
Moon added that over the next decade, more than 100 satellites will be launched in the public sector and that the government would accelerate technological cooperation with private sectors so private companies could develop solid-fuel rockets by 2024.
Not everything went smoothly with Thursday’s mission. In a post-launch briefing Moon said KARI was investigating why the dummy satellite did not stay in orbit after successfully being deployed.
The launch comes just a few months after the U.S. removed Cold War-era limits on South Korea’s rocket development. The country has recently made advances in both its military missile capabilities and civilian program, playing catchup with more advanced space programs in China and Japan.
South Korea sees its rocket program as bolstering its competitiveness in next generation 6G communications and helping it place more eyes in the sky as neighboring North Korea adds to its arsenal, including intercontinental ballistic missiles. The two Koreas are still technically at war.
South Korea has scheduled five additional launches by 2027 — with a plan to eventually send an unmanned spaceship to the moon by 2030, after striving to send a probe there for more than a decade.
Washington has welcomed the advances in South Korea’s space program, including the country joining NASA’s Artemis program to return humans to the lunar surface. South Korea said it has joined a list of six countries that have developed and launched space vehicles with a satellite weighing more than a ton.
The U.S. ally also aims to fully activate its “425 Project” of high-resolution surveillance satellites as early as next year. The program would have civilian and military applications, including the capability to monitoring the entire Korean Peninsula and possibly China.
By Jeong-Ho Lee
Oct 21, 2021, 10:42 AM – Updated on Oct 21, 2021, 11:34 AM
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