South Korea launched its first domestically-built space rocket in the country’s second attempt on Tuesday, months after its previous liftoff failed to place a payload into orbit.
A successful launch would boost South Korea’s growing space ambitions but also prove it has key technologies to build a space-based surveillance system and bigger missiles amid animosities with rival South Korea. North, according to some experts.
The three-stage Nuri rocket carrying what officials call a working ‘performance check’ satellite exploded from South Korea’s only space launch center on a small island off its southern coast at 4 p.m. . Live television footage showed the rocket with a national flag rising into the air with bright flames and thick white smoke above.
Officials are due to announce the results of the launch later on Tuesday.
During the first attempt last October, the rocket’s dummy payload reached the desired altitude of 700 km (435 miles) but did not enter orbit because the rocket’s third-stage engine burned out earlier. provided that.
If Tuesday’s launch is successful, South Korea would become the 10th country in the world to place a satellite in space with its own technology.
South Korea, the world’s 10th largest economy, is a leading supplier of semiconductors, automobiles and smartphones to global markets. But its space development program lags behind that of its Asian neighbours, China, India and Japan.
North Korea placed its first and second Earth observation satellites into orbit in 2012 and 2016, although there is no evidence that either ever transmitted images and data spatial at home. Those North Korean launches drew UN economic sanctions because they were seen as cover to test the country’s banned long-range missile technology.
Since the early 1990s, South Korea has sent a multitude of satellites into space, but all from overseas launch sites or aboard a rocket built using foreign technology. In 2013, South Korea successfully launched a satellite for the first time from its soil, but the first stage of its launcher was made by the Russians.
After Tuesday’s liftoff, South Korea plans to conduct four more Nuri rocket launches in the coming years. It also hopes to send a probe to the moon, build next-generation space launchers, and send large-scale satellites into orbit.
South Korean officials have said the Nuri rocket has no military use.
The transfer of space launch technology is strictly limited under a multilateral export control regime because it has military applications. Experts say ballistic missiles and space launchers share similar bodies, engines and other components, though the missiles require a re-entry vehicle and other technology.
“If you put a satellite on top of a rocket, it would become a space launcher. But if you mount a warhead on it, it becomes a weapon,” said Kwon Yong Soo, a former professor at Korea National Defense University in South Korea. “If we successfully launch Nouri, it’s really significant because we also successfully test a long-range rocket that can be used to build a long-range missile.”
Lee Choon Geun, an honorary researcher at South Korea’s Institute of Science and Technology Policy, said it was difficult to use Nuri directly as a missile because it uses liquid fuels which must be kept at an extremely low temperature and require a much longer refueling time than solid fuels. . He said North Korean long-range missiles also use liquid fuels, but extremely toxic fuels that are kept at ordinary temperatures and require faster refueling times than Nuri.
This year, North Korea has tested about 30 missiles with potential ranges that put the continental United States and regional allies like South Korea and Japan within striking range.
Kwon said Nuri’s successful launch of Nuri would prove that South Korea also has the ability to send a spy satellite into orbit.
South Korea currently has no military reconnaissance satellites and depends on US spy satellites to monitor strategic installations in North Korea. South Korea has announced that it will soon launch its own surveillance satellites.