Third Try is the Charm for South Korea’s Launch Vehicle

Success at Last!Credit : Yonhap

Success at Last!
Credit : Yonhap

After two previous launch failures and two scrubs on this flight,  South Korea achieved its first orbital launch earlier today when its KSLV launch vehicle , also called Naro-3 lifted off from the spaceport for which it is named.  Carrying a small research satellite,  STSAT-2C,  the two stage rocket lifted off from the launchpad at 4:00 PM KST and made a smooth ascent to orbit.  South Korea becomes the 13th nation to launch its own satellite,  immediately  following its bellicose neighbor across the border,  North Korea, with whom it is still technically at war.

Although hailed as a major success for South Korea and KARI, that nation’s  space agency, the launch was probably just as important for Russia, which supplied the first liquid fueled first stage, which is considered a prototype for Russia’s Uniform Rocket Module, the modular first stage of the oft delayed and long anticipated Angara family of boosters. It should be noted that although accounts differ as to the cause for the launch failure on the KSLV’s two previous flights,  in both cases the Khrunichev build first stage, powered by a de-rated RD-151 engine appeared to perform nominally.

For South Korea, which was hampered for years in its space ambitions  by U.S. policy,  the next step is likely to be the hardest of all, producing a fully indigenous launch vehicle, the KSLV-2.  KARI is currently working on a domestic 75 ton thrust liquid fueled engine, four of which would be clustered in the first stage of the new rocket, with one in the second stage and a smaller 5-10 to thrust engine in the third, orbital insertion stage.

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