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Countdown to Nuri launch: Scientists behind S. Korea's first homegrown rocket Updated: 2021-10-21 05:06:09 KST

The countdown is underway for a historic moment for South Korea's space industry.
In the coming hours, the country will launch its first 100-percent domestically developed space rocket.

For more, we have our Kim Do-yeon at the press center near the launch site.
That's as close as it gets to the action.
Do-yeon, seeing that rocket model behind you I bet you're excited to see history being made with your own eyes

Good morning guys and yes, I certainly am
As you said, I'm at the Naro Space Center in Goheung County, Jeollanam-do Province.
And as you can see from the model of the Naro rocket behind me this is where South Korea's space program happens.
We are about a five hour drive south from you guys in Seoul but our team just had to come down here to get as close to this history-making launch as possible.
The launch of Nuri or KSLV-2 is scheduled for 4 PM, Korea time - that's around eight hours from now.
It's a three-stage liquid fuel rocket carrying a mock payload weighing 1.5 tons.
The goal is for it to enter into low orbit - 600 to 800 kilometers above Earth.
Roughly one.seven billion U.S. dollars was spent on this project four times the amount spent on Naro.
The Korea Aerospace Research Institute, along with 300 private companies, has been working on Nuri for 11 years.
Together, they assembled 370-thousand parts to build this space vehicle.

Do-yeon, everyone in Korea has high hopes that everything goes smoothly, but when will we know if it has been a success?

Right. So 16 minutes after the takeoff the dummy satellite will be put into orbit, if all goes to plan.
However, we'll know for sure after 30 minutes when the control room is able to check the data.
The success rate is about 30 percent, but the launch is not a one-time thing.
As a country, South Korea is in the process of development which means we have to launch the rocket multiple times to check and fix any flaws.
Four more launches are already penciled in with the next one scheduled for May 2022.
Countries can't share aerospace technology, especially if its related to space rockets, as the tech could be used to develop weapons.
If Nuri's launch is successful, South Korea would become just the seventh country in the world to send a one ton satellite into space.
Last night, the rocket was erected and its umbilicals have since been connected meaning it's ready to launch on schedule as of now, but the final confirmation will come in a couple hours.
As of now they will fuel the rocket at around two-thirty PM, some 90 minutes prior to the scheduled blast off.

How's the atmosphere among staff there? The engineers must be excited, but must also be under a tremendous amount of pressure.

That's right, the eyes of Korea will be on this small island of about 2-thousand residents at 4PM..
It's usually peaceful with beautiful beaches and peaceful campsites but I wouldn't say the scientists and engineers had their best night's sleep.
I was actually here a week ago to meet two of them.
I asked them what they thought about the launch and the weight of public expectation.


Two engineers who have been working tirelessly over the past decade say everything they can do has been done and the rest is out of their hands.

"There's a lot of pressure, so even if we tested it numerous times, as you know, a rocket has more than 300-thousand parts. But, those parts have to work as planned and according to our sequence. We work as hard as we can, but there's always going to be pressure for us."

"As engineers, we believe that the launch will 100-percent be a success. But as all things do, even if we believe in it, unless destiny is on our side, it may not go our way."

20 years of rocket science under his belt, still.. every single launch is special.

"I've cried at all my launches, I don't even know why. For this one, too, the time I've spent on it could flash before my eyes I don't know. But I've never felt such pressure before, so I don't even know if I'll be able to cry this time."

Whether it succeeds or not the launch of Nuri is extremely valuable to the engineers.

"Even if we don't succeed this time around, we will be gaining a lot of new technology. We can analyze the aspects we succeeded at and the ones we didn't and improve on them to make the second one a success."

"This is a model of Naro… a rocket developed with Russia that had two failed launches before its successful launch nine years ago. Everyone is hoping that Nuri succeeds at the first time of asking, but what’s just as important is that the country dared to try."

There's a great deal of pride among the local residents who, after seeing the facility being built all those years ago, are now able to see how far Korea's space development has come.

"Nuri launch is amazing for us because we used to rely on foreigners, but now it's South Korean technology. This will bring joy to our island."

Cheers and wishes have come from all across the nation.
Citizens wrote messages to hang on this tree at the National Science Center which have since been delivered to the engineers.

"I hope this is a step towards space for South Korea. I wish the best for the launch."

"Thank you for the hard work."

"We wish for a successful launch. Go, Nuri"


That was our Kim Do-yeon, at Naro Space Center in Goheung. Thanks for your report and we'll connect later.

Yes, our news team at Arirang will keep you up to date on the launch throughout the day, so stay tuned.
Reporter : tkim@arirang.com
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