May 26, 2023 09:36
Korea's homegrown space rocket Nuri took off on Thursday evening and placed eight functioning satellites into orbit.
The Nuri blasted off from the Naro Space Center in Goheung, South Jeolla Province at 6:24 p.m. and reached its target altitude of 550 km 783 seconds after liftoff. The satellites separated from the rocket one by one, beginning with a small NextSat-2.
There followed three CubeSats developed by private companies and four DoyoSats developed by the Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute at 20-second intervals.
The Nuri completed its mission 1,138 seconds after liftoff and will be destroyed when it reenters the earth's atmosphere after discharging leftover fuel.
A huge cheer went up at the space center when the last satellite had separated.
Whether all the satellites have settled in their orbit will only become apparent on Friday. Seven separated without a glitch, but one of the DoyoSats needs further checking. The Ministry of Science and ICT will make an announcement later on Friday.
Each satellite carries a synthetic-aperture radar that is capable of shooting images of the earth day and night and in bad weather. Mission control will check if the radar is working normally with the help of space radiation detectors, which measure any changes caused by solar activity.
The satellites will monitor the melting polar ice caps, forest biodiversity and marine pollution over the next two years.
Korea enters the space race just in time for enormous commercial possibilities to open with the emergence of private developers such as SpaceX and Blue Origin who are already looking to Mars. Some W1.96 trillion has been spent on the Nuri since 2009 (US$1=W1,326).
In the next couple of years, Nuris will put micro and midsize satellites into orbit. The government is developing a next-generation launch vehicle with a budget of W2.13 trillion over the next decade with the aim of sending a landing module to the moon by 2032.
Hanwha Aerospace, a key player in the Nuri's third launch, will take over the next three launches from assembly to blastoff until 2027.
President Yoon Suk-yeol said, "Today, we saw that a dream can become reality. The success of Nuri's third launch is a splendid feat declaring that Korea has now joined the seven space powers."
"Only the U.S., France, Japan, Russia, China and India have succeeded in putting a homegrown satellite into orbit on a homegrown rocket," he added.
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