Posted on behalf of Soo Bin Park
In its third attempt to join the global space club, South Korea put a satellite into orbit today. The launch came a month after the successful launch of a North Korean satellite.
The 140-tonne Korea Space Launch Vehicle-1 (KSLV-1), also known as Naro, blasted off at 4 p.m. local time (7 a.m. GMT) from the Naro Space Center, located 480 kilometres south of Seoul.
“The satellite was deployed 540 seconds after the launch and an analysis of related data shows the satellite has successfully entered its target orbit,” Lee Ju-ho, minister of education, science and technology, said in a press conference.
The launch of the KSLV-1 has been postponed twice from 26 October and again from 29 November, both due to technical issues. However, rival North Korea beat the south by launching an Unha-3 rocket carrying a small satellite into orbit on 12 December. The north’s launch was condemned by the international community as a disguised ballistic-missile test.
South Korea’s two earlier launches in 2009 and 2010 ended in failure. In 2009, the payload fairing did not separate, and in 2010, the rocket exploded about two minutes after lift-off.
The first-stage rocket of Naro was built by Russia, with its second-stage rocket developed by a collaboration of South Korean companies and institutes led by the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI). South Korea has spent about US$500 million on the project, and this third launch will be the final one under the Naro space programme, as the joint-development programme with Russia ends later in the year.
The satellite, which has a one-year operational lifespan, will mainly collect data on space radiation.
South Korea plans to develop a domestic rocket by 2018 and eventually to send a landing module to the Moon.