Today, at approximately 4:05 p.m. South Korea time (GMT+9), the nation’s space agency, Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) successfully test-launched the first stage of its orbital rocket KSLV-II (Korea Satellite Launch Vehicle), also known as Nuri. The launch today, which took place at South Korea’s Naro Space Center, saw the KSLV-II achieve a 143-second burn, passing an 185km apogee before falling into the sea.
KSLV-II is a three-stage rocket meant to take a 1,500kg payload to a 600-800 km Low Earth Orbit (LEO), and is South Korea’s second orbital launch vehicle after KSLV-I. KSLV-II is also the first South Korean vehicle to use liquid propulsion technology, with all of its engines being powered by a Liquid Oxygen (LOX)/Kerosene combination. Its final iteration will have a height of 47.2m, a diameter of 3.5m, and a liftoff mass of 200 tonnes, with a recoverable first stage.
Today’s test-launch was only of KSLV-II’s first stage, with the other two still currently under development. The primary mission of the launch was to test the vehicle’s 75-ton liquid propulsion engine, which will be used in KSLV-II’s first and second stages – the first stage will be powered by four boosters hosting these engines, while the second stage will use one. The third stage, meanwhile, will be propelled by a 7-ton engine that has not yet been tested.
KSLV-II is being developed completely indigenously, with a budget of KRW 1957 trillion (US$1.734 billion) over ten years. KARI aims to make the rocket operational by 2021 and use it to launch South Korea’s lunar probe, which will be the first phase of the Korean Lunar Exploration Program.
South Korea’s first orbital rocket, KSLV-I, was first successfully launched in 2013, also from Naro. The vehicle can take about 100kg to LEO, and was developed with Russian assistance. It has not been flown since then.