On March 30, 2021, South Korea launched its first space launch vehicle, the Nuri, from the Naro Space Center in Goheung in the country’s south. The visual image of the first-ever South Korean-made rocket soaring into the night sky to reach the stratosphere sent a powerful message of South Korea’s growing space power.
The Nuri rocket, which was developed over a course of 10 years with an investment of 400 billion won (about $364 million), is a two-stage launch vehicle developed by the government’s Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI). The rocket, standing 33 meters (108 feet) tall and weighing 77 metric tons, can carry a payload of up to 1.5 tons of satellite or other cargo into space.
The launch was originally scheduled for October 2020 but suffered delays due to problems with its engines and the development of its guidance system. Although the launch was successful, the Nuri’s first mission was actually a partial failure, as engineers were unable to send a satellite into orbit due to difficulties achieving the necessary speed.
Still, despite its partial failure, South Korea’s successful launch of the Nuri is seen as a major step forward for the country’s space program and the country’s efforts to become a major player in space exploration.