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Third Time Lucky for South Korea with Satellite Launch Success

The RD-151 engine that powers the KSLV-1/Naro rocket’s first stage is a modified, less-powerful version of one of the engines built by Russia’s Energomash that Khrunichev plans to use for the Angara rocket. Credit: Khrunichev photo

PARIS — South Korea’s Ministry of Education, Science and Technology said Jan. 31 that the 100-kilogram technology demonstration satellite launched aboard the first successful mission of the KSLV-1/Naro rocket was healthy in orbit and had begun sending and receiving signals.

The STSat-2C satellite is in an orbit with an apogee of 1,500 kilometers and a perigee of 300 kilometers and is expected to operate for one year taking measurements of the space radiation environment, the ministry said.

With the entire mission — launch, satellite separation and satellite health — now confirmed a success after two launch failures in 2009 and 2010, officials in South Korea and at Russia’s Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center are now looking forward to their next steps.

For South Korea, it is a fully indigenous, more powerful rocket scheduled to fly early in the next decade. For Russia, it is development of the Angara rocket.

Launch of South Korean Rocket with STSat-2C Satellite. Credit: Courtesy of SpaceVidsNet

Moscow-based Khrunichev — prime contractor for Russia’s heavy-lift Proton rocket — is leading development of the long-delayed Angara, which is intended to succeed the Proton. The RD-151 engine that powers the KSLV-1/Naro rocket’s first stage is a modified, less powerful version of one of the engines built by Russia’s Energomash that Khrunichev plans to use for the Angara rocket. A KSLV-1 milestone is thus a milestone for Angara.

The contract for KSLV-1/Naro development and an associated launch facility was signed by Russian and South Korean authorities in October 2004.

The rocket’s second stage was built by the Korean Aerospace Research Institute (KARI). STSat-2C was built by the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology.

“The successful launch has transformed South Korea into a space power,” the ministry said in a Jan. 31 statement. South Korea has become the 11th nation to launch a rocket into space from its own territory.

“We were late to start space development,” said Lee Sang-ryul, director of satellite development at KARI. “We started from scratch 20-25 years ago and continued with determination to overcome obstacles. Korea’s indigenous booster rocket, when it is developed, will go through a process similar to Naro’s development.”

South Korean officials have said they expect the more powerful next-generation rocket, this one fully made in South Korea, to fly around 2021.

The ministry said the Korean government has invested 529 billion Korean won ($479 million) into the Naro vehicle since development began, out of a total allocation of more than 1.5 trillion won dedicated to the launch vehicle program through 2021.

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