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Naro Space Center

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 Space Center

Updates : 2021.06.25

Korea's first satellite launch site

On January 30, 2001, Korea announced a plan to build a satellite launch complex in the space center as an outpost of space development. Among 11 potential launching sites in Korea, were compared various conditions, such as possible launch azimuth, securing safety in flight paths, and prohibiting passage of foreign airspace. Two sites--Goheung, Jeollanam-do and Namhae in Gyeongsangnam-do-- were selected as the candidate for launching sites, and a detailed evaluation was conducted. Subsequently, after multi-faceted reviews including various conditions required for launching a space launch vehicle and ease of securing the site, Oenaro Island in Goheung-gun, Jeollanam-do was finally selected as the site for the space center. Construction of the Naro Space Center was started in August 2003 and was completed in June 2009. As a result, Korea became the world's 13th country to have a space center. The Naro Space Center is equipped with various cutting-edge facilities necessary to integrate, test, and launch space launch vehicles such as launch pad system, satellite test building, launch vehicle assembly building, solid motor building, and launch control building. Moreover, it boasts of a range of hi-tech equipment such as tracking radar, telemetry reception system, launch control system, optical system, and weather station to track and control launch vehicles and operate the Space Science Museum.

Changes in the Naro Space Center for launching Korean launch vehicles

The Naro Space Center has expanded its test facilities to develop and launch the Korea Space Launch Vehicle (Nuri). The Center added 7 engine/propulsion test facilities to help develop 75-ton and 7-ton liquid rocket engines independently and constructed the second launch pad to launch the Nuri. The second launch pad is equipped with a new umbilical tower with height of 45.6 m to allow preparation for launch while the launch vehicle is staying. Moreover, it improved the performance of various kinds of ground equipment for the launch operation of the Nuri. It upgraded the existing four telemetry receiving systems, developed one additional system to be installed in the Palau Tracking Station in the South Pacific Ocean, which opened in November 2019. It is expanding the communication and mission networks for the tracking radar, meteorological system, launch control system, coastal complex monitoring system, and additional facilities.
  • OpenedJune 12, 2009
  • AreaSite 5,494,719 m2 (Facilities 407,075 m2)
  • Location508, Haban-ro, Bongrae-myeon, Goheung-gun, Jeollanam-do

01Engine/Propulsion test facilities

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Development of Nuri engine in the engine/propulsion test facilities

The engine/propulsion test facilities are an essential element of the independent development of liquid rocket engines. It had been difficult to develop engines in Korea due to the absence of large facilities for test high-thrust engines. Korea could conduct only design and analysis and low-thrust testing since there were no large testing facilities to test 75-ton liquid rocket engines. The performance test for the core components of the 30-ton liquid engine, which was conducted as preliminary research at the time of the Naro development, had to use overseas test facilities on rent. It was forced to pay high costs and adjust test schedules according to the overseas test institutes' schedules, which were wary of technology leak. It conducted performance tests only with miniature models. After the successful launch of the Naro, KARI built test facilities for the enigne and propulsion system of the Korea Space Launch Vehicle (Nuri) in the Naro Space Center. The engine/propulsion test facilities for Korean launch vehicles include ten types: five types of engine component test facilities, four types of engine system test facilities, and one type of comprehensive stage test facility. Six types, including the combustion chamber test facility, turbopump real-propellant test facility, third-stage engine test facility, engine ground test facility, engine high-altitude test facility, and propulsion system test facility, are installed in the Naro Space Center. Since it is necessary to verify that the launch vehicle design and system performance are flawless, the engine/propulsion test facilities must be more accurate, and it must meet stricter specifications and performance requirements than the actual launch vehicle environment. Those test facilities for engine component, engine assembly, and propulsion system performance tests was constructed using Korean technology.

Development of future launch vehicle engines

The engine/propulsion test facilities apply precision control and supply technology for cryogenic fluid (liquid nitrogen at -196 ℃ and liquid oxygen at -183 ℃) and ultra-high-pressure vapor (air, nitrogen, and helium at 400 atm). Moreover, implementing the latest control/measurement system using excellent domestic IT technology has improved the test operation safety and control/measurement accuracy compared to overseas facilities. It has applied a special civil engineering design to support high shear of 20 m or more and a structure to withstand 150-ton load and vibration. The propulsion system performance test began in earnest as the engine/propulsion test facilities have become operational. The facilities were used for tests of engine components such as turbopump and combustion chamber and engine combustion tests, including comprehensive propulsion system performance tests. They accelerated the development of the launch vehicle engines, and a unique 75-ton liquid engine was born with domestic proprietary technology through continuous engine performance tests. After developing the Korean launch vehicle (Nuri), the engine/propulsion test facility will continue to be used for launch vehicle certification and engine performance improvement. The test facilities are also used for certification tests to check if the engine components and system meet the mass production requirements. Since they are designed to test up to twice the required thrust, they will continuously improve the 75-ton liquid engines' performance and develop new engines.

Engine/Propulsion test Facility>

Test facility name Usage
Combustion Chamber Test Facility Combustion Chamber/Gas Generator combustion test
Turbopump (real propellant) Test Facility 7-ton/75-ton turbopump test using real propellant
Third-stage engine combustion test facility 7-ton engine ground/high-altitude combustion test
Engine Ground Test Facility Liquid engine ground condition combustion test
Engine high-altitude Test Facility Liquid engine high-altitude condition combustion test
Propulsion System Test Complex First/Second/Third-stage propulsion development/certification test
Turbopump (model-fluid) Testing Facility 75-ton turbopump test using the model fluid
Expansion of turbopump small-size model-fluid test facility 7-ton turbopump test using model-fluid
Propulsion supply system test facility Gas/Propellant supply system development/certification test
Engine assembly/function test facility Engine system assembly and function test

02Launch complex

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Launch pad installation and final launch

As a facility for installing a launch vehicle and making the final launch, the launch pad is responsible for holding the launch vehicle, connecting electric signal lines, and supplying propellants such as fuel and oxydizer. Tanks that stores fuel, oxydizer, and various gases used by the liquid rocket engine are in the launch pad’s basement of three-story height. Many pipes and equipments are connected to supply them to the launch vehicle. Pipes designed to maintain constant pressures are connected like octopus with length of 1.5 km, and the total length of wires reaches 140 km. As such, it is called a launch complex, not just a launch pad. The Naro Space Center has a launch pad facility consisting of underground facilities including a central common building and a alignment building on a total lot area of about 49,000 m2. The first launch pad (LB1), completed in 2008, has a building area of 84 m2 and a total floor area of 3,305 m2, with three stories underground and one story aboveground. The propellant supply system, storage facilities, other supply facilities, and launch control system to control them are located in the central common building. It has a building area of 1,826 m2 and a total floor area of 2,983 m2. The alignment building houses the theodolite to set the reference of the inertial navigation system that controls the launch vehicle’s flight path. This one-story building has a building area of 51 m2 and a total floor area of 50 m2.

Construction of the 2nd launch pad for launching the Nuri

A second launch pad was constructed with domestic technology to launch the Korea Space Launch Vehicle (Nuri).. The second launch pad has applied new technologies, such as launch vehicle holding device (VHD), multiple umbilical recovery device, and umbilical tower, for Korean launch vehicles. The second launch pad is a structure with three basement floors and one floor aboveground and total floor area of 5,667 m2. All processes except the initial configuration design of some devices were developed with domestic technology. Since the Nuri is larger and heavier than the Naro, the second launch pad is about 1.5 times larger than the first one to support the first stage's increased thrust. Moreover, since supplying the propellant to the second and third stages in addition to the first stage requires umbilical connection for each stage, it has upgraded the structure and function by adding a large umbilical tower and the umbilical recovery system for each stage. The launch pad system is reminiscent of a complex chemical plant but has devices that differentiate a launch pad system from chemical plants. The launcher system includes a coolant spraying system to cool down the high-temperature flames emanating from the liquid rocket engine during launch and a VHD that overcomes the thrust of the launch pad and holds it on the ground and releases on signal. Moreover, a launch pad system is a cutting-edge facility with ultra-high pressure, cryogenic, clean technology, just like a semiconductor factory. It requires technology to limit strictly the moisture and dust content and size in the air and technology to make nitrogen and helium at ultra-high pressure for supply to eight systems. KARI has localized all processes from initial design to manufacturing and assembly by cooperating with domestic industries.

03Jeju Tracking Station

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Continuous tracking and information reception of space launch vehicles

The Naro Space Center operates the Jeju Tracking Station in Pyoseon-myeon, Seogwipo-si, Jeju-do for the stable tracking of space launch vehicles (and acquisition of flight status information). With total floor area of 2,031 m2, the Jeju Tracking Station has one tracking radar device and two telemetry devices equipped with large antennas for continuous tracking and information reception of space launch vehicles launched from the Naro Space Center. The tracking radar and telemetry systems acquire operational status data on the location, direction, and speed of the space launch vehicle in real time until the satellite gets separated and enters the orbit and transmit them to the launch control system. A space launch vehicle launched from the Naro Space Center is tracked in three phases. After the launch, the first phase tracks the launch vehicle up to Namhae, which is about 60 km from the launch pad, and collects data using the tracking radar, optical tracking system, and small telemetry system at the Naro Space Center. Afterward, when a line of sight is secured at the Jeju Tracking Station, its tracking radar and telemetry system begin tracking the launch vehicle flying over the air near Okinawa, Japan, toward Southeastern Philippines. Although the tracking radar has reliable communication distance of up to about 3,000 km, a low-orbit satellite can be tracked for up to 1,700 to 1,800 km when considering the orbit altitude and Earth’s radius. After that, the overseas tracking station in Palau is responsible for tracking the satellite to the 3,000 km point where the satellite is separated from the launch vehicle.

Tracking missions of both domestic and overseas launch vehicles

Since the launch of Korea's first space launcher, Naro, the Jeju Tracking Station has been performing its mission. As part of international cooperation, its telemetry system also tracks and collects remote data of space launch vehicles launched from other countries. The international cooperation was initiated by requests for the facility and personnel to track the Soyuz and Vega launch vehicles flying over Northeast Asia following their launch from the French Giana Space Center. To this end, the Korean government and the European Space Agency (ESA) signed the basic agreement in 2010. KARI and ESA signed an implementation agreement in April 2011 to use the Jeju Tracking Center’s telemetry system. Afterward, the Naro Space Center and the Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales (CNES) in France signed a detailed agreement (CNES) for the use of the telemetry system, supporting the launch of space launch vehicles and receiving remote data (as of 2020).
  • OpenedJune 12, 2009
  • Total areaTotal floor area of 2,031m2
  • Main facilitiesOne tracking radar and two telemetry systems
  • LocationHacheon-ri, Pyoseon-myeon, Seogwipo-si, Jeju-do

04Palau Tracking Station

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Tracking of space launch vehicles from overseas

KARI operates an overseas tracking station in Palau in the South Pacific. The Palau Tracking Station is a facility for tracking and checking the real-time flight position and launching vehicles' flight status and payloads. It can acquire flight information for the third-stage engine combustion section and receive satellite separation signals of the Korea Space Launch Vehicle (Nuri). When the Naro was launched, it was necessary to carry a mobile telemetry system on a coast guard ship to seas near the Philippines. Moreover, there were many restrictions on the launch operation due to sea weather and constraints on the period of stay at sea. The Palau Tracking Station is equipped with a large 7.3m telemetry antenna and a satellite communication network on a site of about 28,000 m2; it can receive remote data and images from launch vehicles at a distance of about 1,700 km. The establishment of the Palau Tracking Station has enabled flight safety and regular launch missions by linking the Naro Space Center and the Palau Tracking Station to receive data on the flight position and flight status of the launch vehicle for the overall launch phases reliably. * The remote data-receiving antenna at the telemetry ground station is a wireless communication system that can acquire real-time flight position, operation status, and characteristics (speed, acceleration, position, attitude, stage separation, satellite separation signal and pressure, temperature, voltage, and current) of launch vehicles and payloads (satellites). It is an essential system for launching missions and managing flight safety.
In preparation for the launch and operation of future space launch vehicles including the Nuri, KARI began a basic investigation to establish an overseas tracking station in 2012 and decided on Palau as the final candidate in 2014. The station opened on November 7, 2019 after construction and equipment installation and started full-scale operation after linking tests with the Naro Space Center's tracking system. The official name of the Palau Tracking Station is the Korea Aerospace Research Institute Palau Tracking Station. The Palau Tracking Station systems are mobile models and are operated only during the launch mission and returned to Korea to minimize maintenance costs. The Palau tracking station will be used in earnest from the launch of the Nuri.
Palau Tracking Station

05Space Science Museum

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Dream and vision of space development to the public

The Space Science Museum is located at the entrance of the Naro Space Center. The Space Science Museum, which has one basement level and two ground levels, features a permanent exhibition hall, a rocket exhibition hall, a 3D and 4D video theater, and an outdoor exhibition hall as well as amenities. It offers a variety of experience programs for visitors.

Providing exhibition halls, experience facilities, and various programs

The permanent exhibition halls on the first and second floors of the Space Science Museum consist of five themes: basic principles, rockets, satellites, space, and moon exploration. Moreover, the Space Science Museum operates a 4D dome video theater and a 3D video theater as a visitor experience facility. Visitors can experience the video with five senses by adding vibration and wind effects to the 180° large screen at the 4D video theater. They can experience the mysterious universe with three-dimensional images as if stars are pouring right in front of them at the 3D video theater.
The outdoor exhibition hall consists of rocket square, parabolic communication, solar garden, and amenities, including restaurant and cafe. It also operates a library lounge with about 1,000 books in the exhibition hall. The Space Science Museum operates space experience classes for elementary, middle, and high school students as well as a space science class to improve teachers' expertise in space science. Also operated is Visit program of Space Science Classes for children in underprivileged areas.
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