South Korea's first homemade rocket takes off but misses a step

SEOUL – Launch of South Korea his first homemade rocket Thursday, a mission that was only partially successful, but which officials cal...

SEOUL – Launch of South Korea his first homemade rocket Thursday, a mission that was only partially successful, but which officials called an important step towards putting nationally-made satellites into orbit to better monitor North Korea’s growing threats.

The three stages Fed rocket, built by the government’s Korea Aerospace Research Institute with the help of hundreds of local companies, took off from the Naro Space Center in Goheung, at the southwestern tip of South Korea. The rocket carried a dummy 1.5 ton payload to test its ability to propel an artificial satellite into orbit 373 to 497 miles above Earth.

Just over an hour after take-off, President Moon Jae-in said the launch “did not fully achieve its goal” but showed “excellent results for a first try”. He said Nuri pushed his payload into space 434 miles above Earth, but the mission was “incomplete.”

Officials said the rocket’s third stage burned out earlier than expected, failing to give the fictional satellite enough speed to stabilize and stay in orbit.

“We were one step away from our goal,” Moon said at a press conference, urging engineers to make the next launch, scheduled for May, “a complete success.”

Thursday’s launch was broadcast live on all major TV channels and internet streaming platforms like Youtube. Mr. Moon’s government had called the launch a giant leap in South Korea’s efforts to become a new leader in space technology.

South Korea has had decades of ambition to join the elite club of nations building rockets capable of launching communications, surveillance and other satellites into orbit. After multiple delays and failures, the South Korean Naro rocket succeeded in putting a satellite in orbit for research and development in 2013. But unlike Nuri, the rocket launched on Thursday using domestic technology, Naro was built jointly with Russia.

South Korea spent nearly $ 1.7 billion to build the 200-ton Nuri, also known as the Korea Space Launch Vehicle-II. He planned to make several more test launches of the Nuri system, including one scheduled for May.

With Nuri, South Korea hopes to gain a foothold in space technology, the latest high-tech market where the country has decided to become an actor. Most rocket launches around the world have been from the United States, Russia, France, China, Japan, and India.

South Korea plans to send a lunar orbiter next fall aboard a Falcon 9 rocket from SpaceX, the company founded by Elon Musk. Moon said his country expects to be able to land an unmanned spacecraft on the moon using South Korean rockets by 2030.

With its own rocket capabilities, South Korea says it hopes to build next-generation satellite navigation and communications networks. It also wants to carve out a portion of the global satellite launch market, an increasingly crowded area as major industrialized countries scramble to build their own national programs.

Nuri’s launch also reflected South Korea’s desire to be less dependent on US forces to monitor North Korea, as well as its goal of regaining operational control in wartime of its 550,000 soldiers. Under a bilateral agreement with Washington, South Korean troops fall under the command of an American general if war breaks out on the Korean Peninsula.

South Korea does not have military spy satellites, instead relying on US satellites to monitor the North. Placing your own “eyes and ears” in space has become more urgent as North Korea’s nuclear and missile capabilities have grown over the years and after President Donald J. Trump has threatened to withdraw US troops in South Korea.

South Korea placed its first military communications satellite in orbit last July, carried by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

North Korea, which has its own rocket program, criticized the Southern space program for its potential military applications. Space rockets and intercontinental ballistic missiles use similar technologies. North Korea launched satellite space vehicles before successfully testing three ICBMs in 2017. The United Nations Security Council banned the North from launching space rockets used as tests for the country’s long-range ballistic missile program.

South Korea’s space ambitions have been crippled for years by agreements with the United States. U.S. officials feared that a strong South Korean rocket program would lead the country to build missiles, thereby accelerating a regional arms race. But last year, Washington and Seoul agreed to lift some of the restrictions, allowing South Korea to build solid-fuel rockets for space launchers.

Solid fuel rockets are more cost effective than liquid fuel rockets like Nuri. They are also ideal for long range ballistic missiles because they are easier to transport and prepare for launch. North Korea has accused the South of hypocrisy for expanding its own weapons capabilities while criticizing those of the North.

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Newsrust - US Top News: South Korea's first homemade rocket takes off but misses a step
South Korea's first homemade rocket takes off but misses a step
Newsrust - US Top News
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