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South Korea launches first domestically developed space launch vehicle

South Korea launched its first-ever domestically developed space launch vehicle on 22 September, but the rocket failed to place a dummy satellite into orbit.

Called the ‘Nuri' or Korea Space Launch Vehicle II (KSLV-II), the three-stage rocket lifted off from Naro Space Center in South Jeolla Province's Goheung County at 1700 h local time in an event that was also attended by South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

The president referred to the development as an “excellent accomplishment for a first launch”, despite the mixed results. “It's not long before we'll be able to launch it exactly into the target trajectory,” said Moon in a speech broadcast on national TV, adding that “the ‘Korea Space Age' is approaching”.

Minister of Science and Technology Lim Hey-sook stated that, while the launch was somewhat disappointing, it is significant as it was “the first test of a launch vehicle independently developed in [South] Korea”. It was meaningful to confirm that “all major launch steps were carried out and [that the country] has secured this core technology”, he added.

According to a statement released by the Ministry of Science, Technology, and Information in Seoul, the launch was successful as all three stages separated correctly and the vehicle achieved the planned altitude of 700 km. However, the engine powering the third stage, which carried the dummy satellite, shut down 46 seconds too early, thus failing to reach the required speed of 7.5 km/s to place the satellite in low-Earth orbit.

As a result, the dummy satellite, once separated from the third stage, could not stabilise into orbit, noted Moon.

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