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Transportation to spaceThe 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 technologyKARI 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
|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|
Korea's first domestic science rocketThe solid propulsion science rocket (KSR-I) is a single-stage unguided rocket with total length of 6.7 m, diameter of 0.42 m, and weight of 1.3 tons. KARI cooperated with the industry, academe, and other research institutes to develop the rocket. KSR-I R&D was conducted for three years, from 1990 to 1993, and the total development cost was KRW 2.85 billion. The goal was to develop a solid unguided scientific observation rocket capable of exploring the atmospheric layer at an altitude of 35 to 75 km with payload of 150 kg to observe the ozone layer over the Korean Peninsula. KSR-I conducted two test launches, units 1 and 2. The first unit was launched at 9:58 AM on June 4, 1993 at a west coast test site, with a mobile launcher developed and manufactured in-house. KSR-I unit 1 measured the ozone layer over the Korean Peninsula and various rocket performance indicators, such as acceleration, stress, temperature, and internal pressure of the propulsion engine, while flying at maximum altitude of 39 km and fall distance of 77 km. KSR-I unit 2 was launched in September of the same year, flying at an altitude of 49 km and fall distance of 101 km, which is higher than that of unit 1. KSR-I, a non-guided system, has set up a wide impact dispersion area and added dummy weights for performance adjustment to the payload to focus on the rocket performance test. The remote transmission/reception system received measured data used for performance analysis work on rockets along with radar data, EOTS data, and high-speed camera data tracked on the ground. Based on the analysis results obtained through the KSR-I flight, the science rocket’s performance prediction was supplemented and applied to the science rockets developed later.
Development of flight performance, propulsion, and installation
Securing overall rocket launch and operation technologyThe first flight test of KSR-II was conducted on July 9, 1997. The 1st and 2nd stages were separated, and the 2nd-stage rocket was ignited 10 seconds after launch. The rocket flew 123.9 km for 6 minutes and 4 seconds after reaching maximum altitude of 150 km. Although the 1st- and 2nd-stage separation, 2nd-stage ignition, and S-19 control wing (canard pin) operated successfully, remote measurement and radar tracking failed due to the payload main power supply problem at around 20.85 seconds. Although it was impossible to acquire data due to communication loss, the rocket was confirmed to have landed in the expected land area at the arrival time. The second flight test took place on June 11, 1998. It reached maximum altitude of 137.21 km at 186.2 seconds after launch and flight distance of 123.9 km at 365.4 seconds. The top speed was 1542.6 m per second, and the flight time was 364 seconds. The flight completed the localized development of a scientific observation rocket with 150 kg of scientific payload to explore the atmosphere, such as the ion layer environment and the ozone layer distribution, at an altitude of 150 km over the Korean Peninsula.
Development of Korea’s first liquid propulsion rocketAt 2:52 PM on November 28, 2002, Korea successfully launched KSR-III, the third scientific rocket and the first liquid propulsion rocket in Korea. More than 3,000 parts were all designed and developed with domestic technology. Using kerosene as fuel and liquid oxygen as oxidizing agent, KSR-III reached an altitude of 42.7 km, which was higher than the original target, by operating an engine with total length of 14 m, total weight of 6t, and 13-ton thrust for 55 seconds. KSR-III settled on the west sea after flying for 238 seconds. The development period of KSR-III was five years, from 1997 to 2003, and the development cost was KRW 7.8 billion.
Laying the foundation for the Naro developmentThe development process for KSR-III was difficult. The strict restriction of missile technology made it impossible to obtain technical support from advanced countries in space development. KARI had no choice but to search technical references and try them one by one to acquire know-how. While there were thousands of parts required for a liquid rocket, only some parts, such as piping, could be imported. Therefore, almost all parts were designed and manufactured in Korea. There was no rocket launch test site, so it had to be launched using the Anheung test site of the Agency for Defense Development (ADD). With KSR-III’s successful development, Korea had the basic technologies necessary for launch vehicle operation, including liquid propulsion engines, stage separation, inertial navigation guidance control, mounting position measurement control, and vertical launch system. The research and development of KSR-III have localized liquid oxygen/kerosene propulsion engines, inertial navigation system, thrust vector control system, thruster altitude control system, lightweight composite tank structure, and electronic module payload. It also secured core technologies essential for developing satellite launch vehicles, such as base technology for propulsion supply systems, ground support facilities, and liquid rocket launch/operation. These achievements accumulated space launch vehicle technologies in Korea through an efficient industry-academe-research cooperation system. KARI has used base technologies for space launch vehicle obtained through the development of KSR-III to develop the Naro and Korean launch vehicles.