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South Korean Startup Launches Suborbital Rocket

By Doug Messier
Parabolic Arc
March 27, 2023
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South Korean Startup Launches Suborbital Rocket
Hanbit-TLV suborbital rocket launch (Credit: INNOSPACE)

South Korean startup Innospace conducted a successful maiden launch of its HANBIT-TLV suborbital rocket on March 19, taking a major step toward the development of a family of orbital boosters.

The booster’s payload was the SISNAV inertial navigation system built by the Brazilian Air Force’s Department of Aviation Science and Technology. Innospace did not reveal what altitude HANBIT-TLV reached after liftoff from Brazil’s Alcantara Launch Center on March 19.

Hanbit-TLV uses a 15-ton hybrid engine powered by liquid oxygen and paraffin. The single-stage booster is 16.3 m (53.5 ft) in height, 1 m (3.3 ft) in diameter, and weighs 9.2 metric tons (10.3 tons).

Hanbit-TLV is Innospace’s first step toward developing a family of small launch vehicles, including:

  • Hanbit-Nano: 50 kg (110 lb) to 500 km (311 mile) sun-synchronous orbit (SSO)
  • Hanbit-Micro: 150 kg (331 lb) to 500 km (311 mile) SSO
  • Hanbit-Mini: 500 kg (1,102 lb) to 500 km (311 mile) SSO.

The Brazilian Space Agency said it was the first launch by a private company from Alcantara. The Brazilian government has signed agreements with Virgin Orbit, Hyperion, Orion AST and C6 Launch to operate from the spaceport, which lies just south of the equator.

Launch of Blue Whale 0.1 rocket. (Credit: Perigee Aerospace)

South Korea’s Small Satellite Launchers

Innospace is not the only private South Korean company developing a small satellite launcher. Last March, Perigee Aerospace conducted the third flight test of its Blue Whale 0.1 launcher from Jeju Island.

The suborbital rocket tested technology for Blue Whale 1, a two-stage orbital booster powered by liquid oxygen and liquid natural gas. Blue Whale 1 will be capable of placing satellites weighing 40 kg (88.2 lb) to 500 km (311 mile) SSO or 50 kg (110 lb) into a 500 km (311 mile) high low Earth orbit (LEO).

South Korea Suborbital Flights

DateLaunch VehicleCompany/ Organization
Dec. 29, 2021Blue Whale 0.1Perigee Aerospace
March 24, 2022Blue Whale 0.1Perigee Aerospace
March 30, 2022Solid Fuel Space ProjectileMinistry of National Defense
Dec. 30, 2022Solid Fuel Space ProjectileMinistry of National Defense
March 19, 2022Hanbit-TLVInnospace
Source: Wikipedia

A flight test is scheduled for later this year from Whalers Way Orbital Launch Complex in Australia.

Perigee has received investment from Samsung Venture Investments and LB Investment. The company has also received support from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), which is a national research institute.

South Korea’s solid-fuel space projectile launches on a flight test on March 30, 2022 (Credit: South Korea Ministry of National Defense)

South Korea’s Ministry of National Defense conducted two suborbital flight tests last year of the Solid Fuel Space Projectile. The launches were part of a development program aimed at producing a booster capable of launching 500 kg (1,102 lb) satellites into orbit. The first orbital flight is scheduled for around 2024.

Orbital Launches

South Korea joined the list of nations capable of orbiting its own satellites when it successfully launched the domestically produced Nuri rocket in June 2022.

The rocket, developed by the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) orbited a dummy satellite, a performance verification satellite, and four CubeSats. It was the second launch of Nuri, which failed on its maiden flight in October 2021.

Nuri is capable of launching 3,300 kg (7,275 lb) to LEO, 2,200 kg (4,850 lb) to 500 km (311 mile) SSO, 1,900 kg (4,189 lb) to 700 km (435 mile) SSO, or 1,000 kg (2,205 lb) to geostationary transfer orbit.

South Korea has plans to build larger launch vehicles as the nation expands its space program.

Last year, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched the nation’s first lunar orbiter, Danuri, which entered orbit in December.

2 responses to “South Korean Startup Launches Suborbital Rocket”

  1. Andrew Tubbiolo says:

    That top headline picture …. I want the US to hire S Korean NOTAM planners.

  2. lopan says:

    Nice to see Alcantara getting some mileage, since Brazil barely uses it.

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