South Korea is planning to launch its first commercial-grade satellite aboard a domestically built rocket in May, officials said on Tuesday, as part of its space development program.
Officials in South Korea say its national Nuri space launch vehicle is designed with no military objectives. While the experts believe the creation of similar rockets would aid the country to achieve the technologies required to develop bigger missiles and launch observational satellites amid hostility with North Korea.
In June 2022, South Korea launched its first satellite using the Nuri rocket. South Korean officials called the launch a “performance verification” satellite with the purpose to test the capacity of the rocket while the launch in May is set to launch a commercial-grade satellite into orbit for the first time.
The Science Ministry stated that the rocket will take off from the country’s space launch center on a southern island on May 24. In a statement, the ministry said that a backup launch date was scheduled from May 25-31, in case of potential changes triggered by weather.
The space vehicle will carry one main satellite, “Next Generation Small Satellite 2” along with seven other smaller cube-shaped satellites. The main satellite is designated with the task to examine the imaging radar technology and observe cosmic radiation close to the orbit of the Earth, according to the statement.
Authorities assembled the rocket’s first and second stages and are working to conduct final environmental tests of the eight satellites that will be positioned on the rocket’s third stage.
In 2022, Nuri launched its rocket’s second liftoff. The rocket’s first launch in 2021 saw its dummy payload reach the desired altitude but failed to enter the orbit. Next month, South Korea plans to launch three more Nuri rockets, officials said.
As quoted in the statement of the ministry, Oh Tae-Seok, the first vice science minister, said, “The third launch of Nuri is of great significance as it is the first attempt to launch a commercial-grade satellite and the first time a private company will jointly manufacture the homegrown Nuri rocket.”
Though South Korea is the 10th largest economy in the world and is a main producer of semiconductors, automobiles, and smartphones, it is still behind its neighbors China, India, and Japan, in terms of its space development program. South Korea has launched several satellites into space, but all are launched with the help of foreign rocket technologies or launch sites, since the early 1990s.
North Korea launched Earth observation satellites into orbit in 2012 and 2016, but there is no proof that these satellites are functioning. North Korea was slammed with international sanctions as the two launches which the United Nations sees as camouflaged tests of the North being barred from long-range missile technology.