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Naro, Korea’s first space launch vehicle

Space Launch Vehicle: the Only Means of Space Transportation

Space Launch Vehicle

Transportation to space

The United States and Russia have secured space launch vehicle technology since the 1950s. Europe, Japan, China, and India are also pursuing space development, such as launching satellites, space probes, and transporting space cargo, by securing space launch vehicle technology. All of the satellites developed in Korea have been launched using foreign space launch vehicles. As a latecomer in the research and development of space launch vehicle, Korea does not own a space launch vehicle yet. Since countries restrict cross-border technology transfer for space launch vehicles, it takes much time and development cost and many trials and errors due to technical difficulties. With the recent introduction of innovative recycled launch vehicles by US private space enterprise Space X, Europe and Japan are also developing low-cost and high-efficiency launch vehicles. Moreover, many startups around the world are developing ultra-small launch vehicles capable of launching nanosatellites. The global commercial space launch vehicle market is expected to expand as the number of space development countries increases and more small satellites are developed.

Development of space launch vehicle with domestic technology

KARI has cultivated its rocket design and manufacturing capabilities by developing single-stage solid propulsion science rocket (KSR-I, 1993), double-stage solid propulsion mid-sized science rocket (KSR-II, 1998), and Korea’s first liquid propulsion science rocket (KSR-UUU, 2002). It acquired space launch vehicle know-how and experience by developing Naro (successfully launched in 2013), the double-stage space launch vehicle consisting of a first-stage liquid engine and a second-stage solid engine, through international cooperation with Russia. It is currently developing a 3-stage Korean launch vehicle (Nuri) with domestic technology to launch a 1.5t-class application satellite into a solar-synchronous orbit at an altitude of about 600~800km. The Nuri is a space transportation vehicle necessary for Korea to become a space powerhouse and a key vehicle for stable space development. KARI plans to launch a domestically developed satellite using the Nuri between 2022 and 2027. With the Nuri development, Korea has finally secured the three elements of space development: the satellite, the launch vehicle, and the launch site. They will enable Korea to launch its satellite at any desired time.

Status of Rocket Development in Korea

Status of Rocket Development in Korea
Subject KSR-I KSR-II KSR-III Naro (KSLV-I) Korean Launch Vehicle (KSLV-II)
Purpose Localization of single-stage non-guided scientific observation rockets and exploration of the ozone layer over the Korean Peninsula Localization of double-stage solid propulsion scientific observation rockets with initial altitude control function Securing base technology for independent development of liquid propulsion rockets and small satellite launch vehicles Securing technology and experience for independently developing launch vehicles that can carry a 100kg- class satellite into low-earth orbit Securing development know-how of a launch vehicle that can carry a 1.5-ton application satellite into low-orbit
Development period 1990.7 ~ 1993.10 1993.11 ~ 1998.6 1997.12 ~ 2003.2 2002.8 ~ 2013.4 2010.3 ~ 2022.3
Development cost (KRW 100 million) 28.5 52 780 5,025 19,572
Length (m) 6.7 11.1 14.0 33.0 47.2
Diameter (m) 0.42 0.42 1.0 2.9 3.5
Weight (kg) 1,268 2,048 6,000 140,000 200,000
Launch date Unit1 1993.6.4 1997.7.9 2002.11.28 2009.8.25 2021
Unit 2 1993.9.1 1998.6.11 2010.6.10
Unit 3 - - 2013.1.30
Features
  • - Single-stage solid propulsion science rocket
  • - Double-stage solid propulsion science rocket
  • - Successful separation of two stages during flight
  • - First liquid propulsion rocket independently developed in Korea
  • - Secure base technology for small satellite launch vehicle
  • - Development of Korea’s first satellite launch vehicle
  • - Joint development by Korea and Russi
  • - Securing system technology through technical cooperation with Russia
  • - Development of Korea’s first application satellite launch vehicle
  • - Independent domestic development
  • - Developed 75 ton-class liquid engine

Naro, Korea’s first space launch vehicle

Updates : 2021.06.25

Started development of space launch vehicle with the Niro

Naro (KSLV-I) was a space launch vehicle development project implemented according to the National Space Development Plan. Its goal was to secure know-how and experience to develop space launch vehicles independently. Specifically, the main objectives were to design, manufacture, and test the satellite launch vehicle system, secure the technology to put satellites into orbit and carry out the launch operation, and develop and implement the equipment and facilities for satellite launch vehicles. The Naro (KSLV-I) is a double-stage launch vehicle that consists of a liquid engine in the 1st stage and a solid kick motor in the upper stage to place a 100 kg satellite into low earth orbit. Russia developed the 1st stage, and Korea independently developed the top stage. The design goal was a launch vehicle weighing up to 140 tons, including the propellant, with length of 33 m, diameter of 3 m, and 1st-stage thrust of 170 tons. The satellite orbit was designed for a 300×1,500 km elliptical orbit. The 1st stage consisted of a liquid propellant engine with kerosene as fuel and liquid oxygen (LOX) as oxidizing agent. The propellant was supplied to the combustor through a turbopump. The 2nd stage consisted of a solid propellant (hydroxyl-terminated polybutadiene, HTPB) kick motor. The Naro succeeded in the third launch on January 30, 2013 after failing the first launch in 2009 and the second launch in 2010.

Naro, the foundation for the development of the Korean launch vehicle

The development of the Naro has many important implications. It has provided a steppingstone for the development of Korea’s unique launch vehicle through direct experience of the entire process of launch vehicle design, development, and launch. The Naro played a key role in attaining the experience needed for the Korean launch vehicle's independent development in raising the technology level. The project resulted in the construction of a launch station (Naro Space Center) to launch satellites and attainment of technology and experience through the entire process of launch vehicle system design, launch vehicle assembly, and launch operation. The development process of the Naro enabled planning the independent development of the Korean launch vehicle Nuri. Considering the fact that the international environment makes the transfer of launch vehicle engine technology virtually impossible, the preceding research on key element technology such as 30-ton and 75-ton liquid engine technology and large propellant tank needed for the independent development of the launch vehicle was conducted parallel to the Naro's development. KARI also designed the test apparatus for Korea’s first launch vehicle propulsion engine to ensure early construction. The participation of more than 150 enterprises throughout the Naro's development led to the overall advancement of the industries, academe, and research institutes related to Korea’s launch vehicles. It was significant since it laid the foundation for self-sufficiency to develop the launch vehicle independently. Korea's launch vehicle technology level is judged to have increased from 46% of leading countries before the Naro project to 83% after the project.
  • Total Length33.5 m (1st stage: 25.8 m, 2nd stage: 7.7 m)
  • Total weight140 tons
  • Diameter2.9m
  • Thrust170-ton liquid engine for the 1st stage and 7-ton solid engine for the 2nd stage
  • Launch dateFirst on August 25, 2009, Second on June 10, 2010, and Third on January 30, 2013
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