Nuri engine test a success as rocket goes suborbital

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Nuri engine test a success as rocket goes suborbital


Korea’s test launch vehicle for the KSLV-II, or Nuri, blasts off at Naro Space Center in Goheung County, South Jeolla, on Wednesday. [JOINT PRESS CORPS]

Korea took a giant step toward the goal of blasting its own launch vehicle into space after a successful test on Wednesday of the rocket engine that will be used to power the craft.

The suborbit vehicle, with a rocket engine using kerosene and liquid oxygen, was launched from the Naro Space Center in Goheung County, South Jeolla, at 4 p.m. The engine burned for 151 seconds, 11 seconds longer than the targeted time of 140 seconds, and reached an altitude of 75 kilometers (46.6 miles) above the earth.

The vehicle hit a maximum altitude of 209 kilometers above the earth at around 319 seconds and safely landed in international waters southeast of Jeju Island, 429 kilometers away from the space center, according to the Ministry of Science and ICT.

The Space Launch Vehicle (KSLV)-II, also known as Nuri, is scheduled for its first flight in 2021.

“We have made sure that the preparation for the completion of the development of Nuri has proceeded as planned,” said Lee Jin-gyu, first vice minister of science and ICT, at a briefing after the test at the space center. “Korea’s space development capacity has taken one step further, and the Korean government will keep up with space development efforts that will improve the quality of life and the safety of people and help achieve economic growth.”

The main purpose of the test flight of the 25.8-meter-tall (84.6 feet) vehicle was to confirm that the engine operates well and to gauge how long the engine combustion lasts. If combustion lasts more than 140 seconds, propulsion is considered normal. The test came after the originally scheduled launch date of Oct. 25, which was missed due to a component glitch.

With the test Wednesday, researchers were able to check the speed, acceleration and curve of the flight and check the influence of the acceleration on all the components. Korea is the seventh country in the world to develop a 75-ton engine with domestic technology.

The engine that powered the test vehicle will be the core component of Nuri, a three-stage rocket as tall as a 15-story building that will put a 1.5-ton satellite into low-earth orbit at 600 to 800 kilometers above the earth in 2021.

The 75-ton liquid-fuel engine has been designed and developed by Korean scientists in partnership with 19 local companies. The engine has been tested more than 100 times under varying conditions at the space center in the far south of the Korean Peninsula.

Nuri’s first-stage booster will have four 75-ton fuel engines, the second stage will have a single 75-ton engine and the third stage will have a seven-ton liquid engine.

The ministry said the next three years will mostly be devoted to perfecting the first-stage booster as the operations of the second and third-stage have been verified.

Korea’s space program has been in the spotlight recently, but kept a low profile for a time after successfully launching its first carrier rocket, the KSLV-I, or the Naro, in January 2013. Korea launched its first satellite, the Uribyol-I, into space on Europe’s Ariane launch vehicle in 1992.

When it comes to launch vehicles, Korea lags behind other Asian competitors, according to Park Jeong-joo, director of Naro Space Center. Japan and China launched rockets into orbit in the 1970s, and India followed suit in the 1980s.

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