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South Korea enters the space race with its first successful Nuri payload launch

South Korea's new Nuri rocket kickstarts the country's far-reaching space ambitions.

South Korea enters the space race with its first successful Nuri payload launch
The Nuri rocket at launch. Korea Aerospace Research Institute/YouTube

South Korea has successfully launched its first payload into orbit using a homegrown rocket.

The made-in-South Korea Nuri rocket put satellites into orbit for the first time following a failed attempt in 2021.

South Korea's new Nuri rocket launched from Naro Space Center on Tuesday, June 21, at 3 a.m. EDT (0700 GMT), according to Reuters report. The rocket deployed six payloads into Earth's orbit shortly after launch.

The payloads were made up of a 358-pound (162.5 kilograms) test satellite, a 1.3-ton dummy satellite, and four small CubeSats developed by university researchers.

The Nuri launch was the second time the three-stage, 155-foot-tall (47.2 meters) launch vehicle made it to orbit, though it was the first time it successfully placed a payload into orbit. The first Nuri launch, in October 2021, failed to deploy its dummy payload into orbit due to a malfunction with the rocket's third stage. After that launch, engineers adjusted the helium tank inside Nuri's third-stage oxidizer tank to fix the problem.

South Korea's first homegrown orbital payload launch

The country launched a satellite into orbit in 2013 with a rocket called Naro. However, that was part of a collaboration with Russia's space agency, Roscosmos. The Nuri launch vehicle, on the other hand, was built domestically and developed by the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI).

"Now the road to space from our land has been opened," South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol said following the Tuesday launch, according to Reuters. "It was the product of 30 years of daunting challenges. From now on, the dreams and hopes of our people and our youth will extend into space."  

Several countries that are not traditionally known for their space ambitions are making strides in the global aerospace industry with new orbital launch vehicles. In May, for example, the United Kingdom revealed the "most environmentally friendly rocket' in the world, the fully 3D-printed Orbex Prime, which runs on biofuel.

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South Korea's space agency has stated it wants to launch a constellation of 6G constellations and spy satellites and also aims to send probes to the moon in the future. The Nuri rocket is designed to eventually launch 1.5-ton payloads into orbit 600 to 800 km (370 to 500 miles) above the Earth. KARI aims to carry out at least four more test launches of Nuri by 2027.

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