South Korea’s KSLV-2 rocket launched seven satellites into sun-synchronous orbit, including one with synthetic aperture radar, on May 25. The launch was deemed successful, despite one of the eight cubesats not deploying properly. The rocket’s primary payload, NEXTSat-2, exchanged signals with a ground station in Antarctica and the other six are expected to follow suit. The launch was hailed by President Yoon Suk-yeol as a “significant milestone” in South Korea’s emergence as a major space power. The rocket’s first-stage booster separated two minutes after liftoff, followed by the separation of its payload fairing and second stage booster, then the third stage deployed the satellites.
As reported in SpaceNews, South Korea’s KSLV-2 rocket successfully launched seven satellites into sun-synchronous orbit on May 25, including one equipped with synthetic aperture radar. However, an eighth cubesat is believed to have not deployed properly.
The rocket lifted off at the planned time of 5:24 a.m. Eastern from the Naro Space Center. Live footage showed the 47.2-meter rocket, emblazoned with South Korea’s flag, soaring into the air with bright yellow flames shooting out of its engines. It was the third launch of the kerosene and liquid oxygen-fueled three-stage rocket since its partially successful debut in October 2021.
Despite the setback with one cubesat, science minister Lee Jong-ho referred to the launch as “successful” in a televised press conference held about 90 minutes after liftoff. “It would take some time to know what happened” to the cubesat, he said. The minister said the primary payload, named NEXTSat-2, had exchanged signals with a ground station in Antarctica and the six others are expected to follow suit in the coming hours.
President Yoon Suk-yeol hailed the launch as a “significant milestone,” signifying South Korea’s emergence as a major space power, As reported in the presidential office.
The first-stage booster, powered by a cluster of four KRE-075 engines, separated about two minutes after liftoff. The separation of its payload fairing took place 109 seconds later, followed by the second stage booster with a single KRE-075 engine 38 seconds later, As reported in the science ministry. The third stage, with a KRE-007 engine, pushed the payload to the intended orbit of 550 kilometers above the Earth and started deploying the satellites about 13 minutes after liftoff.
The primary payload was NEXTSat-2, a 180-kilogram technology demonstration satellite developed by the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST). It hosts a set of scientific payloads, including a KAIST-developed synthetic aperture radar that can produce imagery with five-meter resolution and a swath width of 40 kilometers.
The six smaller satellites successfully deployed are JLC-101-v1-2, a four-kilogram Earth-observation technology, and five cubesats: SNUSAT-4, developed by the Seoul National University; HyeCube-2, developed by the Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology; STSAT-4B, developed by the Korea Aerospace Research Institute; and FossaSat-1, developed by Fossa Systems.
South Korea’s KSLV-2 rocket launch is a significant achievement for the country, as it signifies the emergence of South Korea as a major space power. The successful launch of seven satellites, including one equipped with synthetic aperture radar, will help improve the country’s earth observation capabilities and contribute to the development of advanced space technologies. Despite the setback with one cubesat, the launch is still considered a success and a significant milestone for South Korea’s space program.