South Korea’s KSLV-2, more commonly known as Nuri, executed a flawless mission on Thursday, May 25, deploying eight payloads into Sun-synchronous orbit. The launch was spearheaded by the Korean Space Research Institute (KARI) marking their inaugural mission for 2023, and also denoting the third time Nuri has embarked on an orbital flight.
The launch occurred at 11:24 am local time from the Naro Space Center. Among the satellites, the primary payload was the synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellite NEXTSat-2, a brainchild of the Technology Research Center. Accompanying NEXTSat-2 were seven CubeSat satellites.
The 180 kg NEXTSat-2, developed by the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), will utilize SAR technology in the X-band and is anticipated to have an operational life span of two years. Its mission includes creating terrestrial images as well as monitoring cosmic rays originating from the sun and beyond our solar system. The outcome of NEXTSat-2’s performance will inform future national missions.
In addition to NEXTSat-2, Nuri carried four 6U CubeSats as part of the SNIPE (Small scale magnetospheric and Ionospheric Plasma Experiment) mission. The 40 kg satellites, labelled A to D, are designed to investigate the plasma existing in Earth’s ionosphere and magnetosphere. Originally destined for a Russian rocket launch, the deployment plans for SNIPE satellites were revised following Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. The remaining three CubeSats on Nuri’s voyage will undertake various research tasks, including cosmic ray measurements and trialling space debris removal technology.
Nuri, an indigenously developed rocket in the Republic of Korea, stands 47.2 m tall with a diameter of 3.5 m. Its development over the past decade has amounted to a cost of USD 1.8 billion. Nuri is capable of delivering 1.5 tons of payload to a low Earth orbit (LEO) at an altitude of 600-800 km, and 2.6 tons to LEO at an altitude of 300 km.
Moving forward, South Korean engineers are currently developing a successor to the Nuri, the KSLV-3. KSLV-3 will have the capacity to launch 10 tonnes to LEO, 7 tonnes to a Sun-synchronous orbit, nearly 4 tonnes to a geostationary transfer orbit, and less than 2 t to a lunar transfer orbit. The design and construction of the new carrier system will be supervised by KARI, with a private partner expected to be selected by September this year. For this project, the South Korean government has allocated a budget of USD 113.6 million.