Seoul, South Korea –
South Korea successfully launched its first domestic space rocket on Tuesday, officials said, a victory that spurred the country’s growing space ambitions but also demonstrated it has key technologies. needed to build a larger missile and space-based surveillance system amid hostilities with rival North Korea.
The science ministry said the three-stage rocket Nuri successfully launched and placed its working “performance verification” satellite at an altitude of 700 km after taking off from the Korean space launch center at 4 pm.
“Dear compatriots, the space of the Republic of Korea has completely opened up. South Korea’s science and technology has made a great progress,” Science Minister Lee Jong-Ho said in a televised press conference. “The government will continue its bold march towards a space power with its people.”
Earlier live TV footage showed the 47-metre rocket, emblazoned with the national flag and its official name in Korean, rising into the air amid bright flames and thick white smoke.
The launch made South Korea the 10th country in the world to send a satellite into space with its own technology.
This is the second time South Korea has launched a Nuri missile. During the first test last October, the rocket’s dummy payload reached the desired altitude of 700 km but did not enter orbit because the rocket’s third stage engine burned out earlier than planned. plan.
South Korea, the world’s 10th largest economy, is a major supplier of semiconductors, automobiles and smartphones to the world market. However, its space development program lags behind its Asian neighbors China, India and Japan.
North Korea placed its first and second Earth observation satellites into orbit in 2012 and 2016, although there is no evidence that either satellite has ever transmitted data and images based on distance. about the country. Those launches by North Korea have called for economic sanctions by the United Nations because they are seen as cover for testing the country’s banned long-range missile technology.
Since the early 1990s, South Korea has sent a series of satellites into space, but all from overseas launch sites or on a rocket built with the help of foreign technology. In 2013, South Korea successfully launched a satellite from the mainland for the first time, but the first stage of the launch vehicle was made by the Russians.
After South Korea’s 2013 satellite launch, North Korea’s foreign ministry accused the US of revealing “double standards and salty nature” because it supported South Korea’s satellite launch but led sanctions. UN sanctions for North Korea’s 2012 satellite launch. North Korea did not immediately respond to Tuesday’s Nuri launch.
South Korea plans to conduct four more Nuri missile launches in the coming years. It also hopes to send a probe to the moon, build next-generation space launch vehicles and put large-scale satellites into orbit.
South Korean officials say the Nuri missile has no military purpose.
The transfer of space launch technology is strictly limited under the multilateral export control regime because it has military applications. Experts say that ballistic missiles and space launch vehicles share the same fuselage, engines and other components, although rockets require a relaunch vehicle and other technologies.
“If you put a satellite on top of a rocket, it becomes a space launch vehicle. But if you attach a warhead to it, it becomes a weapon,” said Kwon Yong Soo, a former professor at Korea National Defense University in South Korea. “If we succeed in the Nuri launch, it really makes sense because we also succeed in testing a long-range missile that can be used to build a long-range missile.”
Lee Choon Geun, an honorary research fellow at the Korea Institute of Science and Technology Policy, said it is difficult to directly use Nuri as a rocket because it uses liquid fuel that must be kept at extremely low temperatures and need much longer refueling time than solid fuel. . He said North Korea’s long-range missiles also use liquid fuel, but are extremely toxic, maintained at normal temperature and require less refueling time than Nuri.
This year, North Korea has test-fired about 30 missiles with a potential range that puts the United States and regional allies such as South Korea and Japan within long ranges.
Kwon said Nuri’s successful launch of Nuri would demonstrate that South Korea also has the ability to put a spy satellite into orbit.
South Korea currently does not have a military surveillance satellite of its own and relies on US spy satellites to monitor strategic facilities in North Korea. South Korea says it will soon launch its own surveillance satellite.