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South Korea seeks clues after nearly successful space mission

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Seoul, Oct 23 (IANS) South Korea has said it will set up a committee to closely look into what went wrong in a mission to put a dummy satellite into orbit with its first homegrown space rocket.

The committee — to be composed of researchers of the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) and other aerospace experts — will comb through data to fix technological glitches ahead of a second launch in the coming months, officials of the state-run institute said late on Friday.

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Nuri, also known as the KSLV-II, flew to a target altitude of 700 kms but failed to put the dummy satellite into orbit, as its third-stage engine burned out 46 seconds sooner than expected.

Aerospace experts said a possible malfunction in the valves or the pressure system may have led the third-stage engine to burn up sooner than planned but stressed that determining the exact cause requires further data analysis, reports Yonhap news agency.

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“It’s possible the valve that controls the fuel shut down sooner than expected for various reasons, like a sensor malfunction,” Kong Changduk, professor of Aerospace Engineering at Chosun University, said.

“But if we can analyse the problems in the launch and fix them, I believe we’ll have no problem launching the Nuri next year.”

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South Korea plans to launch the Nuri rocket in May next year as part of its four other scheduled launches until 2027.

President Moon Jae-in has called the launch “a very creditable achievement,” though it did not perfectly reach the goal.

Aerospace experts described this week’s mission as a major advancement in South Korea’s space programme, which began in 1990. They said the Nuri rocket marked significant progress from South Korea’s rocket launches in recent years, noting Nuri successfully completed all flight sequences using domestic technology.

So far, only six countries — Russia, the US, France, China, Japan, and India — have developed a space launch vehicle that can carry a more than 1-ton satellite and have the technology to develop 75-ton liquid engines.

South Korea, a relative latecomer to the global space development race, has recently ramped up efforts in its space programme, with plans to launch its first lunar orbiter next year.



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