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South Korean Rocket Fails to Reach Orbit

The first satellite launcher produced in South Korea failed to reach orbit on its first test flight on Thursday. The Korea Aerospace Research Institute said that the third stage of the rocket had shut down prematurely.

The Nuri rocket lifted off from the Naro Space Center, built on an island nearly 500 kilometers south of Seoul. Officials delayed the launch for an hour to assess the rocket’s fuel valves, Korean officials said.

The Naro Space Center launch team loaded kerosene and liquid oxygen into the three-stage rocket a few hours before takeoff. After a smooth countdown, four KRE-075 engines ignited with nearly 600,000 pounds of thrust to propel the Nuri launcher off the seaside launch pad.

The rocket arced south of the Naro Space Center and exceeded the speed of sound in less than a minute.

Two minutes after launch, all four engines of the first stage stopped. Moments later, a single KRE-075 engine on the Nuri’s second stage ignited to continue the climb into space.

The rocket’s nose cone dropped. The rocket’s third stage, powered by a smaller KRE-007 engine, ignited to accelerate to an orbital speed close to 17,000 miles per hour. But the liquid-fueled third-stage engine shut down prematurely, leaving the rocket below orbital speed.

Korea Aerospace Research Institute stated that the launch was disappointing. However, it was the first flight test, and it shows that Korea has accumulated a considerable level of rocket technology.

KARI has indicated that it will establish a committee to identify the cause of the premature termination of the third stage. Engineers will correct the issues before the second launch of the Nuri test.

South Korean authorities plan to launch the second Nuri rocket in May next year.

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