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July 06, 2022

Nuri‘s satellite completes link-up with ground control

PUBLISHED : June 23, 2022 - 09:13

UPDATED : June 23, 2022 - 09:13

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South Korea’s Nuri rocket, also known as Korea Satellite Launch Vehicle-II, is launched at Naro Space Center in Goheung, South Jeolla Province, Tuesday. (Joint Press Corps)

Nuri rocket‘s performance test satellite launched into the Earth’s 700-kilometer orbit has successfully made its first two-way communication with the ground control center, completing the final steps of the launch mission, the Ministry of Science and ICT said Wednesday.

According to the ministry, the satellite that was sent into space with the homegrown rocket yesterday made two-way communication with the Korea Aerospace Research Institute‘s ground control center in Daejeon at around 3 a.m., about 11 hours after the liftoff from Naro Space Center in Goheung, South Jeolla Province.

The ministry said that the satellite and ground control have been synchronized and that the global positioning system receivers have been activated. Ground control also transmitted orbital information to the satellite, which will be necessary for adjusting its position.

The engineers and researchers at KARI confirmed that all functions of Nuri’s performance test satellite were working properly, the ministry said.

The satellite will continue checks on itself for the next seven days while stabilizing its posture. From June 29, it will begin to release four smaller cube-shaped satellites one by one, with a two-day interval in between each of them. According to the ministry, the releasing process will be captured on the main satellite‘s camera and beamed down to Earth later.

“The remaining missions are whether the cube satellites are stably released and whether they work well,” said Kim Ki-seok, director of the space technology division at the ministry, in a briefing.

“Once we get access to the video footage of the cube satellites’ release, we will be able to make assessments. Even after they are released, they need to make communication.”

The four cube satellites were developed by students at four local universities -- Chosun University, Seoul National University, the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology and Yonsei University. They will carry out various observational missions, including monitoring fine dust and detecting temperature changes on and around the Korean Peninsula.

Over the next two years, the 180-kilogram performance test satellite will follow a sun-synchronous orbit, circling the Earth 14.6 times a day, the ministry said.

The satellite will test out three Korean technologies -- an electrically heated thermoelectric generator, a control moment gyroscope and an S-band antenna -- to assess how well they work in space.

Following the domestically-developed Nuri‘s successful launch, South Korea aims to send a lunar lander to the moon by 2031.

The country will stage four more Nuri launches between next year and 2027 to increase the reliability and safety of Korean rocketry, with 687 billion won ($530 million) of investment, according to the science ministry. 

The government is also conducting a preliminary feasibility review on the project to develop next-generation projectiles that aim to launch larger satellites and lunar landers. If approved by the government, the project will require almost 2 trillion won of investment through 2031.

National aerospace agency

President Yoon Suk-yeol congratulates researchers and engineers via video link after the Nuri rocket launched successfully on Tuesday. (Yonhap)

President Yoon Suk-yeol on Tuesday hailed the successful launch and praised everyone involved in the Nuri rocket project, saying that South Korea’s space challenges were “just beginning.”

He also underlined a pledge from his presidential election campaign to establish a state-level aerospace agency, which would supervise all of the country‘s aerospace projects.

Leading up to the presidential election in March, Yoon had vowed to set up a national aerospace agency in the southern city of Sacheon, South Gyeongsang Province, where Korea Aerospace Industries is located. KAI has played a crucial role in putting Nuri parts together and building fuel and oxidizer tanks.

The Korea Aerospace Industries Association has long called on the government to set up a national aerospace agency.

“Due to the absence of a government body dedicated to overseeing the country’s aerospace development, each ministry is taking on a different yet important role at the moment,” the KAIA said in a discussion with lawmakers at the National Assembly in April.

“A representative body should be designed in a way that it can organize pan-government cooperation and stably push for national (aerospace) policies. In this way, it can also support the transition to private sector-led aerospace development,” the group added.

Currently, the government‘s space projects and policies are being handled by the Ministry of Science and ICT, Ministry of Defense, Defense Acquisition Program Administration and KARI. Yoon’s envisioned version of a national aerospace agency would work as a control tower for them, similar to the US‘ National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

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

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