South Korea successfully launched its first satellite using a domestically developed rocket on Tuesday, officials said, bolstering the country’s growing aerospace ambitions and demonstrating it has key technologies needed to launch spy satellites and build larger missiles amid tensions with rival North Korea.
The three-stage Nuri rocket launched a working “performance verification” satellite at a target altitude of 700 kilometres (435 miles) from South Korea’s space launch site on a southern island around 4 p.m., according to the Science Ministry.
The satellite sent status updates to an unmanned South Korean station in Antarctica. According to ministry officials, it is carrying four smaller satellites that will be launched in the following days for Earth monitoring and other tasks.
“The Republic of Korea’s science and technology have made enormous advances,” Science Minister Lee Jong-Ho said at a televised press conference at the launch centre. “With the people’s help, the government will continue its bold march toward becoming a space power.”
President Yoon Suk Yeol praised scientists and others engaged in the launch via video conference and vowed to uphold his campaign promise to establish a governmental aerospace agency, according to his office.
- The 47-meter (154-foot) rocket rose into the air amid dazzling flames and dense white smoke, as seen on live TV.
- South Korea became the world’s tenth country to launch a satellite into space using its own technology.
- It was South Korea’s second Nuri rocket launch.
- The rocket’s dummy cargo reached the desired altitude but failed not enter orbit in the first try last October because the engine of the rocket’s third stage burned out earlier than intended.
South Korea, the world’s tenth largest economy, is a significant manufacturer of semiconductors, vehicles, and cellphones. However, it falls behind Asian neighbours China, India, and Japan in terms of space development.
North Korea launched Earth observation satellites into orbit in 2012 and 2016, but there is no evidence that either one ever returned home with space-based imagery and data. Because the North Korean launches were considered as a cover for testing the country’s banned long-range missile technology, the United Nations imposed economic sanctions.
South Korea has launched a bevvy of satellites into space since the early 1990s, but all have required foreign rocket technology or launch sites. South Korea successfully launched a satellite from its land for the first time in 2013, but the first stage of the rocket was Russian-made.
Following that satellite launch, North Korea’s Foreign Ministry accused the US of having “double standards and a brigandish nature,” claiming that Washington supported the South Korean launch while leading U.N. sanctions against the North the previous year.
North Korea did not respond immediately after Tuesday’s Nuri launch.
South Korea intends to launch four more Nuri satellites in the future years. It also plans to deploy a moon probe, develop next-generation space launch vehicles, and launch large-scale satellites.
According to South Korean officials, the Nuri missile has no military purpose.Because space launch technology has military implications, it is severely prohibited under a multilateral export control framework.
Ballistic missiles and space launch vehicles frequently share bodies, engines, and other components, though missiles require reentry and other technologies.
“If you put a satellite atop a rocket, it becomes a space launch vehicle.”
“However, if you install a warhead on it, it becomes a weapon,” said Kwon Yong Soo, a former professor at South Korea’s Korea National Defense University.
“(A successful launch) is extremely significant because it allows us to test a long-range rocket that can be utilised to develop a long-range missile.”
According to Lee Choon Geun, an honorary research fellow at South Korea’s Science and Technology Policy Institute, direct deployment of Nuri as a missile would be challenging since it uses liquid fuels that must be stored at extremely low temperatures and require a considerably longer fuelling period than solid fuels.
He claims that North Korean long-range missiles employ liquid fuels as well, although they are extremely hazardous and require less fuelling time than Nuri.
North Korea has tested approximately 30 missiles this year, with ranges that could put the US mainland and regional allies South Korea and Japan within striking distance.
South Korea already possesses missiles capable of hitting all of North Korea, but some experts believe it also requires longer-range missiles due to its proximity to regional military powers and prospective foes.
“If we simply consider North Korea, a long-range missile has no meaning for us.”
However, it is regrettable that military countries such as China and Russia are so close to us,” Kwon remarked.
He stated that Nuri’s successful launch demonstrates South Korea’s ability to launch a spy satellite into orbit. According to Lee, Nuri can be used to launch a surveillance satellite, but it would be ideal for South Korea to have a large number of small spy satellites that can be launched using less powerful solid-fueled rockets.
South Korea currently lacks its own military reconnaissance satellites and relies on US spy satellites to monitor North Korean vital facilities.
South Korea has stated that it intends to launch its own surveillance satellites in the near future.
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