South Korea Launches First Domestically Produced Rocket

Nuri rocket lifts off from the Naro Space Center on June 21, 2022. (Credit: KARI)

South Korea successfully launched a fully domestically produced Nuri rocket for the first time on Tuesday, orbiting multiple satellites in a major breakthrough for the Asian nation’s space program.

The three-stage rocket lifted off at 4 p.m. local time carrying a 1.3 metric ton dummy satellite, a smaller 162.5 kg satellite whose purpose was to verify Nuri’s performance, and four research CubeSats developed by universities. The verification satellite confirmed it had entered orbit when it made contact with a communications station in Antarctica.

“The sky of the Korean universe is now wide open. Our science and technology has made great strides,” said Lee Jong-ho, minister of Science and Information Communications Technology (ICT).

The Korean Aerospace Research Institute (KARI), which is South Korea’s space agency, designed the domestically produced rocket to place 1.5 metric tons into low Earth orbit.

Nuri failed during its maiden flight last October due to the premature shut down of its third-stage engine. An investigation found that a helium tank broke loose due to a design flaw, causing a leak that shut down the engine.

It was the second successful satellite launch from South Korea. In 2013, a Naro-1 rocket launched a small satellite after two earlier failures. Naro-1 used a Russian first stage and a South Korean second stage.