Launchapalooza: 26 New Boosters Debuting Worldwide

Vega-C lifts off on its maiden flight on July 13, 2022. (Credit: Arianespace)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

During the first seven months of the year, five new satellite launch vehicles from Europe, China, Russia and South Korea flew successfully for the first time. As impressive as that is, it was a mere opening act to a busy period that could see at least 20 additional launchers debut around the world.

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77 Launches Conducted During First Half of 2022 as Access to Orbit Expanded

Falcon 9 launches 53 Starlink satellites while the Dragon that will carry Crew-4 to the International space Station awaits its turn. (Credit: SpaceX)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

It was a busy first half of 2022 that saw 77 orbital launches with 74 successes and three failures through the 182nd day of the year on July 1. At a rate of one launch every 2 days 8 hours 44 minutes, the world is on track to exceed the 146 launches conducted in 2021.

A number of significant missions were launched during a period that saw more than 1,000 satellite launched. SpaceX flew the first fully commercial crewed mission to the International Space Station (ISS), Boeing conducted an orbital flight test of its CST-100 Starliner spacecraft, China prepared to complete assembly of its space station, South Korea launched its first domestically manufactured rocket, and Rocket Lab sent a NASA mission to the moon.

Let’s take a closer look at the numbers.

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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.

South Korea Delays Nuri Launch Vehicle’s Second Flight by 1 Month

The maiden launch of South Korea’s Nuri booster. (Credit: Korea Aerospace Research Institute)

South Korea has postponed the second flight of its Nuri (KSLV-II) booster by a month to mid-June to allow engineers to correct flaws that caused the rocket to fail on its maiden flight in October.

Nuri’s second flight is schedule for June 15, with the launch window extending until June 23, the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) said in a press release. The original launch date was May 19.

Nuri failed on its maiden flight when the rocket’s third shut down prematurely due to a leak in the oxidizer tank. A dummy payload was released, but it was not able to enter orbit due to the early engine shutdown. KARI has said that the first two stages performed as expected.

Nuri is South Korea’s first domestically produced launch vehicle. It is designed to place payloads weighing up to 1,500 kg into low Earth orbit.

South Korea’s Nuri Booster Failed Due to Design Flaw

Nuri rocket on the launch pad at the Naro Space Center. (Credit: KARI)

An investigation has found that a design flaw in the third stage doomed the maiden launch of South Korea’s Nuri (KSLV-II) launcher on Oct. 21, according to a press release from the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI).

The investigation found that the third stage engine shut down prematurely due to a leak in the third stage oxidizer tank. The leak was caused when a helium tank broke loose due to a design flaw, the statement said.

A dummy payload was released, but it was not able to enter orbit due to the premature engine shutdown. KARI has said that the first two stages performed as expected.

KARI had previously announced plans to launch the second Nuri rocket on May 19. KARI has not announced whether that flight will be delayed due to the need to fix the design flaw with the third stage helium tank.

Nuri is South Korea’s first domestically produced launch vehicle. It is designed to place payloads weighing up to 1,500 kg into low Earth orbit.

South Korea Plans to Build 100 Metric Ton Reusable Rocket

Yonhap News reports that South Korea is planning to develop a new large booster.

Assemblyman Cho Seung-rae, secretary of the Democratic Party of the National Assembly’s Science, Technology, Information and Broadcasting and Communications Committee, said at a briefing after discussing with the party, “From next year, we have decided to start developing a reusable, high-performance liquid engine rocket with an output of 100 tons.”

Rep. Cho explained, “In order to complete the large-scale space tasks currently being pursued, such as self-propelled lunar landing in 2030 and self-construction of a Korean-style satellite navigation system in 2035, with domestic capabilities, additional development of high-performance liquid rocket engines is required after the Nuri.”

He said, “The high-performance liquid rocket engine to be developed by Korea plans to apply reuse technologies such as multi-stage combustion, re-ignition, and thrust control. We have succeeded in developing various space launch vehicles since the 2010s.”

Accordingly, the government plans to start the ‘Space Challenge’, an advanced development project next year, and has decided to increase the amount by 4.5 billion won next year and 7.5 billion won in 2023, respectively.

South Korean Satellite Launch Fails as Third Stage Falters

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The maiden flight of South Korea’s first domestically produced satellite launch vehicle failed on Thursday due to the premature shutdown of the rocket’s third stage, the nation’s space agency said.

The Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) said the Nuri’s rocket’s first and second stages performed nominally after liftoff from the Naro Space Center at 5 p.m. local time. The failure of the booster’s third stage meant it was unable to place a dummy payload into low Earth orbit. Engineers are analyzing data from the flight to determine what caused the premature shutdown.

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South Korea Plans Maiden Flight of Nuri Launch Vehicle in October

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

South Korea has set an October date for the maiden flight of the nation’s first fully domestically developed satellite launch vehicle, the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) announced. Minister of Science, ICT and Future Planning Hyesuk Lim approved KARI’s plan to conduct flight tests of the new Nuri booster from the Naro Space Center on Oct. 21 and May 19, 2022.

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