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Nuri rocket ready to launch Tuesday

State weather agency says no lightning or thunder forecast around launch time at 4 p.m.

South Korea’s homegrown Nuri rocket is being erected on the launch pad at Naro Space Center in Goheung, South Jeolla Province on Monday, a day before its rescheduled launch on Tuesday. (Korea Aerospace Research Institute)
South Korea’s homegrown Nuri rocket is being erected on the launch pad at Naro Space Center in Goheung, South Jeolla Province on Monday, a day before its rescheduled launch on Tuesday. (Korea Aerospace Research Institute)
South Korea’s homegrown rocket Nuri is ready for blastoff on Tuesday, with hopes to deliver a complete and successful launch this time to officially signal the country’s entrance into the global space race.

The Korea Aerospace Research Institute said Monday that Nuri, also known as the Korea Space Launch Vehicle-II, has been erected on the launch pad at Naro Space Center in the southern coastal village of Goheung, South Jeolla Province.

“Starting around 11 or 11:30 a.m. tomorrow, we will begin the safety control procedures on the ground and waters. Then we will begin to fill up the fuel and oxidizer into the rocket. At the moment, the targeted launch time is 4 p.m.,” Oh Seung-hyub, director of KARI’s launcher propulsion system development division, said in a briefing.

“The final launch time will be announced after the launch control committee confirms various factors regarding the liftoff tomorrow afternoon,” he added. 

Once the rocket is launched, the results of the mission to put the satellite into the targeted orbit at 700 kilometers above the ground will be determined approximately 42 minutes after liftoff, when the rocket makes first communication with the ground control center at the King Sejong Institute located in the Antarctic.

KARI and the Ministry of Science and ICT had previously tried to send the three-stage rocket, weighing 200 metric tons and standing 47.2 meters tall, into space on Wednesday last week. However, they had to postpone the launch a day to Thursday due to strong winds at the launch site.

Authorities looked to carry on with the rescheduled launch, but had to indefinitely push back the plan after a last-minute technical issue was found in the electric components of the oxidizer tank sensor.

After KARI changed the necessary components and concluded that the rocket was ready for its second launch, space authorities chose Tuesday as the blastoff date.

The Korea Meteorological Administration said that despite the cloudy forecast around liftoff time, there will be no lightning or thunder that could hinder Nuri’s launch.

The first launch in October was loaded with a dummy satellite. This time, however, Nuri will carry an indigenous satellite designed to test the performance of the rocket’s launch capabilities as well as four cube satellites developed by local universities to monitor the Earth and collect data.

Even though last year’s space attempt had a successful liftoff into an orbit of 700 kilometers above the ground, the rocket’s third-stage engine shut down early, and the dummy satellite failed to reach a sufficient orbital speed, eventually falling short of a complete mission.

According to KARI, space authorities have made adjustments and improvements to the device of the helium tank inside the rocket’s third-stage oxidizer, which had burned out early during the first launch.

South Korea has invested 1.96 trillion won ($1.5 billion) into the development of Nuri, which means “world” in Korean, since March 2010. Around 300 companies have taken part in building the country’s first homegrown rocket. 

If Tuesday’s second launch succeeds, South Korea will become the seventh in the world with the capability to launch a satellite weighing over 1 metric ton into orbit, following China, India, Japan, Russia, the US and the EU.

By Kan Hyeong-woo (hwkan@heraldcorp.com)
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