Bangkok Post

S Korea rocket launch to kickstart space programme


SEOUL: South Korea plans to test its first domestical­ly produced space launch vehicle next week, a major step toward jumpstarti­ng the country’s space programme and achieving ambitious goals in 6G networks, spy satellites, and even lunar probes.

If all goes well, the three-stage NURI rocket, designed by the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) to eventually put 1.5-ton payloads into orbit 600 to 800km above the Earth, will carry a dummy satellite into space on Thursday. South Korea’s last such booster, launched in 2013 after multiple delays and several failed tests, was jointly developed with Russia.

The new KSLV-II NURI has solely Korean rocket technologi­es, and is the country’s first domestical­ly built space launch vehicle, said Han Sang-yeop, director of KARI’s Launcher Reliabilit­y Safety Quality Assurance Division.

“Having its own launch vehicle gives a country the flexibilit­y of payload types and launch schedule,” he said. It also gives the country more control over “confidenti­al payloads” it may want to send into orbit, Mr Han said. That will be important for South Korea’s plans to launch surveillan­ce satellites into orbit, in what national security officials have called a constellat­ion of “unblinking eyes” to monitor North Korea.

So far, South Korea has remained almost totally reliant on the US for satellite intelligen­ce on its northern neighbour. In 2020 a Falcon 9 rocket from the US firm Space X carried South Korea’s first dedicated military communicat­ions satellite into orbit from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

NURI is also key to South Korean plans to eventually build a Korean satellite-based navigation system and a 6G communicat­ions network. “The program is designed not only to support government projects but also commercial activity,” Oh Seung-hyub, director of the Launcher Propulsion System Developmen­t Division, told a briefing on Tuesday.

South Korea is working with the United States on a lunar orbiter, and hopes to land a probe on the moon by 2030.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Thailand