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The launch of the Nuri rocket, a major success for an ambitious South Korean space industry


The success, Thursday, May 25, of the launch of its Nuri rocket (“world”, in Korean), imposes a little more South Korea in the space sector. After a postponement due to a computer problem “never seen before”according to Ko Jeong-hwan, project manager at the Korea Institute for Aerospace Research, the 47.2-meter, three-stage rocket took off from the Naro Space Center, located on this island in Goheung County, North Korea. extreme south of the country.

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This was the first operational mission of this rocket known under the code name KSLV-II. Nuri was carrying eight Earth, climate and cosmic radiation observation satellites, including the Nextsat-2, developed by the Korean Higher Institute of Science and Technology. The others were by the Institute of Astronomy and the private companies Justek, Lumir and Kairospace.

This success marks an important step for the space industry, which is one of the ten strategic sectors selected by Seoul. In December 2022, the president, Yoon Seok-youl, announced that he wanted to make “one of the five world premieres” by reaching “technological independence on the essential elements of the launcher and the satellites”. The objective is to increase South Korea’s share in the space sector from 1% today to 10% in 2045.

End of collaboration with Russia

“The space industry is growing at lightning speed. From an industrial point of view, we cannot ignore it. It is also important for national security”, Deputy Science Minister Oh Tae-seog told Bloomberg. According to a 2020 study by Morgan Stanley, revenues for the space industry, from $350 billion (326 billion euros) in 2019, could exceed $1,000 billion in 2040.

Its development has been erratic, starting in the 1990s with KSR rockets, then the Naro developed in cooperation with Russia. After two failures, this launcher experienced its first success in 2013. Nuri materializes a 1.9 trillion won (1.3 billion euros) project launched in 2010, with the aim of placing satellites of 1 .5 tons in low orbit.

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In June 2022, the success of Nuri’s second test made South Korea the seventh country to master the launch of satellites over one ton. Three more launches are planned by 2027 and its successor, the KSLV-III rocket, is already under development. It should enter service in 2030 and will be able to bring up to 10 tonnes into low orbit or 3.5 tonnes into geosynchronous orbit.

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