The Nuri rocket took off, marking a turning point for the South Korean space program

South Korea on Thursday launched its domestically designed rocket named Nuri carrying a “commercial-grade satellite”, marking a turning point in South Korea’s growing space programme.

Minister of Science and Technology Lee Jong-ho said, “We inform that the third firing of Nuri, which was independently designed (…) has been successfully completed.”

For the South Korean minister, this launch confirms “the capability of (our) launch pad for various satellite operations and space exploration”.

A breakthrough that would give South Korea a competitive advantage in the global space race, President Yoon Suk Yeol said.

The country has set a target of sending a spacecraft to the Moon by 2032 and to Mars by 2045.

“The success of Nuri’s third launch is a tremendous achievement that shows South Korea has joined the G7 space powers,” the head of state said in a statement.

He added that three more Nuri will be launched by 2027.

Thursday is already the third. The first failed before a successful second launch of this rocket in 2022 that put test satellites into orbit. The main purpose of the payload carried by the launcher was to study its performance.

Nuri blasted off from the Naro Space Center in South Korea’s southern coastal region at 6:24 p.m. local time (0924 GMT) on Thursday, leaving a huge trail of white smoke behind.

South Korea’s Ministry of Science said it carried eight operational satellites, including a de facto “commercial-type satellite”. The latter was able to communicate with King Sejong Station, a South Korean station in Antarctica.

According to official footage, the satellites carrying Noori have been successfully separated.

Over 200,000 viewers watched the event live on YouTube, with one commenting, “Fly high Noori! Let’s go to space!”

– Hold on –

“The purpose of the third launch is to put a satellite developed in South Korea into a target orbit,” Ko Jeong-hwan, program manager of the Nuri rocket at the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI), told reporters.

This machine of Nextsat 2 weighing about 180 kg has been made by the Korea Higher Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST). It should be placed in orbit at an altitude of about 550 km, explains KARI.

The device is equipped with a small synthetic aperture radar which makes it possible to obtain high resolution images regardless of weather conditions.

The rocket, 47 meters high and weighing 200 tonnes, took nearly ten years to build at a cost of 2,000 billion won (1.4 billion euros).

South Korea is one of the most technologically advanced countries, but it has always lagged behind in space exploration, where the Soviet Union took the lead with the launch of the first satellite in 1957.

The first two South Korean rockets launched in 2009 and 2010 partly using Russian technology failed. In January 2013, it was finally launched successfully.

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