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The KSLV-II NURI rocket stands on its launch pad at the Naro Space Center in Goheung, South Korea
South Korea's minister of science and technology said the country "has taken a giant leap forward" Image: Korea Aerospace Research Institute/REUTERS

South Korea launches satellites in first homegrown rocket

Alexandria Williams
June 21, 2022

The successful launch puts the country a step closer to domestic space development, which could curb South Korea's dependence on foreign partners and private companies for space projects.


South Korea successfully launched its first domestically made rocket on Tuesday placing several satellites into orbit. This marked the country´s second attempt since a failed launch last October. 

"Nuri has completed its flight according to plan. Engineers are now analyzing its flight data, which will take around 30 minutes to complete," said Oh Tae-seok, Seoul's deputy minister of science, technology, and innovation told  AFP news agency. 

The rocket took over a decade to develop and costs a reported 2 trillion won ($1.5 billion).

What the launch means 

Including South Korea, only seven nations have successfully launched rockets carrying more than a 1-ton satellite onboard into space.

South Korea has launched satellites into space since the early 1990s, but past missions were conducted on overseas launch sites or with launch partners.

South Korea launch Nuri space rocket
South Korea´s first launch of its Nuri space rocket failed last OctoberImage: Yonhap/REUTERS

The country has also relied heavily on Russian technology for its space-faring missions — with mixed success. A 2010 launch saw a space rocket explode two minutes in. Moscow and Seoul both blamed one another for the failure. 

Space and the military

South Korea´s first independent space launch also puts the nation on par with some of its neighbors, including China and North Korea — both of which are said to have their own satellite launch capability. 

While South Korean officials have said that its space launch technology has no military purposes, experts state that rockets can easily be reconfigured for such purposes. 

"If you put a satellite on the top of a rocket, it would become a space launch vehicle. But if you mount a warhead on it, it becomes a weapon,'' said Kwon Yong Soo, a former professor at Korea National Defense University in South Korea. 

A growing global appetite for space 

South Korea's push for a homegrown space industry also points to a growing global interest in space technology.

Governments globally spent a combined $216.27 billion (€204 billion) on space activities from 2018- 2020. 

Countries that don't have their own rocket technology turn to private companies like SpaceX, one of a few with rockets that can carry heavy satellites into space. South Korea, Egypt, and the US have all worked with SpaceX on missions in the past.

"SpaceX offers good pricing, and their launches are well tested...,” said Temidayo Isaiah Oniosun a space industry expert in an interview with DW, when asked why countries work with the Elon Musk-owned company. 

SpaceX charges around $67 million per launch, an 8% increase from its price $62 million price tag in 2022. 

asw/kb (AP, AFP)

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