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Military test-fires solid-propellant space rocket

Military test-fires solid-propellant space rocket developed with homegrown technologies eight months after ignition test
To be launched with a real satellite after additional verification
Test achieves a new milestone in the independent, space-based surveillance and reconnaissance area
Military plans to push forward with the development of a solid-fuel and liquid-fuel combined launch vehicle

Military test-fires solid-propellant space rocket

Our military has achieved another milestone in strengthening the independent, space-based surveillance and reconnaissance area. On March 30, the Agency for Defense Development (ADD) said in a statement that it had “successfully conducted the first test-firing to verify the performance of a solid-propellant space rocket developed with homegrown technologies at its testing site. The test was attended by Minister of National Defense Suh Wook and top officials from each armed service.”

The Wednesday test-launch comes just eight months after the successful completion of an ignition test for a solid-propellant rocket engine last July. Prior to this test, the Ministry of National Defense (MND) and the ADD had pushed forward with the development of a solid-propellant rocket engine that can put micro or ultramicro satellites into a low Earth orbit. It is known that the solid-propellant rocket engine is suitable for a military reconnaissance satellite, as it has a relatively simple structure that enables a speedy launch.

This test-launch had added significance as an outcome resulting from accelerated development led by the MND and the ADD, following the termination of the ‘ROK-US missile guidelines,’ in which the use of solid-fuel launch vehicles had been restricted, at the ROK-US Summit last May.

This test aimed to verify core technologies for space launch vehicles, including large-scale rocket propellants, payload fairing and stage separation mechanisms, and upper stage attitude control system. The ADD plans to conduct additional verification before it is launched with a real satellite. The space launch vehicle will be used to put micro or ultramicro satellites into a low Earth orbit. The developed technologies will be transferred to the private sector (spin-off), and will ultimately contribute to the invigoration of the domestic space industry.

“Linking with this, the Ministry of Science and ICT (MSIT) is building relevant infrastructures, including new launch sites, launchers, and launch tracing systems, at the Naro Space Center, with the aim of providing support for the launch of a micro launch vehicle that is being developed by a private company,” an official from the MND explained.

Regarding the new launch sites, the MND plans to expand the project by the process of Phase 1 (solid-fuel) and Phase 2 (liquid-fuel) to ensure support for the private company’s launch, responding to the demand for short-range launches.

The ministries are also pushing for the development of a new type of space rocket technology that combines the strengths of solid-propellant and liquid-propellant engines, with the aim of increasing space rocket payload in the shorter term and reducing expenses. The contents were discussed at the ‘2nd Defense Science and Technology Committee’ presided over by Minister Suh at the ADD on March 22. Participants in the meeting, including officials from the MND and the MSIT, reached a consensus on the need to develop a new type of space rocket technology.

The MND expects that the development of a space rocket combined with solid-propellant and liquid-propellant engines will give the MND space rocket operation capabilities to respond flexibly and quickly to its respective mission and purpose. The MND also predicts that it will secure economic feasibility and effectiveness, including a dramatic reduction of the time required to advance a technology and the acquisition of a technology to put multiple satellites into different orbits with a single launch.

Since the meeting, the ADD and the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) have been devoted to speeding up their cooperation efforts. Accordingly, the ADD plans to test launch a solid-fuel space rocket developed with homegrown technologies at the Naro Space Center after verification and incorporation of its main components. KARI plans to develop a next-generation medium-sized liquid-fuel launch vehicle which enables the increase of payload and the expansion of launcher technologies, based on the technologies secured by the development of the liquid-fueled rocket, Nuri.

“We are in a very grave situation, as North Korea has recently test-launched an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), breaking its self-imposed moratorium. This successful test-launch of the solid-propellant space launch vehicle will serve as a foundation to strengthen the independent, space-based surveillance and reconnaissance area in the military,” an MND official said, adding that “our military will expeditiously advance defense space power, including a solid-propellant space launch vehicle, based on cross-service cooperation, as we recognize that space is a key domain that has a significant impact on our national security.”

By Chae-Mu, Im < >

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