South Korea heading for 2016 rocket launch


South Korea has made headway resolving a major technical obstacle in its next-generation space rocket, which could lead to launching in late 2016.

An incomplete combustion issue is gradually being overcome. It had plagued the South Korean-built 75 metric-ton thrust engine, which is schedule to be used on the Korea Space Launch Vehicle-2 (KSLV-2).

South Korea has been working on a follow-up unit to the Naro-1 rocket launched in 2013. The Naro-1 rocket was only partially made in Korea, with the first stage brought in from Russia. Local scientists and engineers built the second stage rocket and the satellite.

The fully domestically built replacement was scheduled to take to the sky in 2020 following a limited test flight in 2017.

Problems arose because of uncontrolled fluctuations in pressure and temperature within the rocket engine system, which caused incomplete fuel combustion. Potentially this could lead to the rocket exploding on lift-off.

The 47.2m-long three-stage KSLV-2 rocket is to be South Korea’s first locally designed and built space vehicle. It will be used to place unmanned satellites into the Earth’s orbit.

Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) officials said that of the three stages, only the second and third will actually be tested.

The KSLV-2’s first stage is made up of four individual 75-metric ton thrust engines, with the second stage being a single 75-metric ton unit and the third a seven-metric ton rocket.

“The goal for the 2016 test is to see if the 75-ton engine works according to design,” an official said, adding that the success rate for a country launching its first rocket stands at 33-34%, while for established space rocket builders the success rate stands at 93% for any launch.

KARI then said that because it is conducting ground tests, one actual flight test of the rocket should be sufficient to see if all systems work when they are put under real launch stress and conditions.

It then said at present, only one launch is planned under the 2015-2018 timetable, although if the launch fails, it may have to contemplate another test launch.

“Rocket launches are very costly in terms of materials and human resources,” the state-run institute said.

On the country’s plans to send an unmanned probe to the moon, KARI said that the program involves a locally built probe being sent to the moon on a foreign-made rocket in 2018. It said the moon mission and the KSLV-2 are not linked at present.

February 5, 2016

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