So far, only six countries have successfully launched more than 1 ton of equipment into space using domestically developed rockets. A seventh, North Korea, has successfully done so with a slightly smaller payload. Recently, their southern neighbor attempted to get into this exclusive club by testing its first-ever three-stage orbital rocket.
All three stages fired successfully, but the last one didn’t do so long enough, stopping 46 seconds before it was supposed to. So while South Korea did manage to get almost all the way there, there’s still some planning and troubleshooting to be done before they can successfully join the space-faring club.
The country is no stranger to space, though. It successfully launched a satellite in 2013 but used a Russian-built first stage to do so. That success followed failed attempts in 2009 and 2010, which also used Russian technology.
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South Korea then went on to fully develop their own three-stage rocket, known as Nuri. Weighing in at 47.2 m in height, the rocket itself weighs 200 tons. It is crucial to the country’s has long-term aspirations to join in the vanguard of space exploration, including landing a probe on the Moon by 2030. To help with that, the country has been leveraging one other development of the modern space industry – commercialization.
SpaceX, an American commercial space flight company, has been providing satellite launch services for the South Korean military and other governmental organizations around the world. South Korea lacks a similar commercial infrastructure, but developing its own rocket is one way to create the capability.
In the near term, though, the government will remain the driving force behind South Korea’s space exploration efforts, and they are not yet discouraged by the trials those efforts have faced. Next is another 1-ton dummy satellite launch scheduled for May. They were so close last time, and perhaps the next time will be the charm.
Phys.org – South Korea launches first domestic space rocket but mission fails
Space.com – South Korea’s 1st Nuri rocket fails to put payload in orbit in debut space launch
CNN – South Korea fails to put dummy satellite into orbit
WaPo – South Korea successfully launches its first rocket, fails to place test satellite
Nuri on its launch tower.
Credit – Korea Aerospace Research Institute