SEOUL, South Korea — South Korean rocket startup Innospace announced May 3 that it will conduct its first suborbital test launch of flight hardware in December from the Alcântara Space Center in Brazil, carrying a Brazilian military payload.

The 16.3-meter, single-stage test rocket is a precursor to the company’s planned commercial satellite launcher Hanbit-Nano, a two-stage small satellite launcher designed to carry up to a 50-kilogram payload to a 500-kilometer sun-synchronous orbit. The first stages of the two rockets are powered by a 15-ton-thrust hybrid rocket engine that uses liquid oxygen and paraffin-based propellants. Hanbit-Nano’s upper stage is equipped with a 3-ton hybrid engine, according to the Sejong-based company’s website.

“If the upcoming test launch is successful, we will start preparing for a test launch of Hanbit-Nano,” Innospace spokesperson Kim Jung-hee told SpaceNews.

Aboard the test rocket will be an inertial navigation system (INS), developed by the Brazilian Department of Aerospace Science and Technology (DCTA) under the supervision of the Brazilian Air Force. The payload is a navigation device that uses a computer, motion sensors and rotation sensors to continuously calculate by dead reckoning the position, the orientation, and the velocity of a moving object without the need for external references. The payload won’t be deployed from the rocket in the test, according to the spokesperson.

“The test launch will enable DCTA to verify if the inertial navigation system operates properly in specific environments such as vibration, shock, and high temperature that occur in the entire process from takeoff and during the transatmospheric flight,” Kim said.

The spokesperson said the company is launching the Brazilian military payload in exchange for use of Alcântara Space Center, operated by the Brazilian air force.

“We are in talks with our Brazilian counterpart to widen the scope of cooperation,” Kim said.

Founded in 2017, Innospace has raised $27.76 million  (35.2 billion won) through three financing rounds:

  • $1.2 million in a seed round that closed in October 2019
  • $6.6 million in Series A in January 2021
  •  $19.7 million in s Series B in July 2021 

Major investors include South Korea’s venture capital Kolon Investment, Company K Partners, Intervest, and car materials manufacturer Kolon Glotech.

Meanwhile, Innospace signed a memorandum of understanding with Norwegian Andøya Space in January to launch its rockets into polar and sun-synchronous orbits from Norway. 

Park Si-soo covers space industries in South Korea, Japan and other Asian countries. Park worked at The Korea Times — South Korea's leading English language newspaper — from 2007 to 2020. He earned a master’s degree in science journalism from Korea...