Aerospace institute pushes for space projectile development

Aerospace institute pushes for space projectile development

GOHEUNG, South Jeolla Province ― Korean scientists and engineers on this southwestern island are accelerating independent research on and development of space rockets.

On Thursday, the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) revealed the progress of the second Korea Space Launch Vehicle (KSLV-II) at the Naro Space Center on Oenarodo Island.

The KARI said it has successfully established test facilities for a rocket engine. It hopes to build space rockets and launch one by 2020.

“Building the engine test facilities means a lot to us,” said Ko Jeong-hwan, executive director for the KSLV-II project at KARI. “Previously, we had cost and schedule problems in testing the engines overseas. Now that we have built the facilities, we can independently test the engines.”

The Korean government has pushed for the KSLV-II project since March 2010. This aims to develop three-stage rockets that can take a 1.5-ton satellite into a low-Earth orbit. The budget for the project, which is scheduled to end in March 2021, has been set at 1.96 trillion won ($1.62 billion).

The rocket is designed to have three projectiles including the first with four 75-ton liquid engines, the second with one 75-ton engine and the third with a single seven-ton engine. Compared to the KSLV-I, or NARO, which was built to reach an altitude of 300-kilometers, the KSLV-II will be able to go up to 800 kilometers, the KARI said.

The KARI test-operated the seven-ton liquid engine for 100 seconds late last year. Engineers plan to improve the engine to be able to run about 500 seconds.
Ko said developing and testing the 75-ton engine would be an even greater task.
“We have not tested the 75-ton engine as a whole yet,” he said. “Currently we are separately testing a combustor, a gas generator and a turbo pump.”

Once the 75-ton engine is completed, the institute plans to test-launch a rocket with only the second- and third-stage projectiles by December next year.

“We are developing technologies and still have many technological obstacles,” Ko said. “Our researchers are working to overcome them within the given time.”

In particular, building the first-stage projectile with four 75-ton engines is unprecedented globally.

“Compared with automobiles and planes, space rockets are far more dangerous and have a much less success rate,” said KARI President Cho Gwang-rae.

Cho named combustion instability as the biggest problem. According to the KARI, combustion instability occurs because of extremely high pressure.

“Combustion instability has troubled us the most so far in developing the 75-ton engine,” he said. “But we are continuing to improve it.”

The KARI is also expanding launch pad infrastructure. It plans to remodel the pad, which was used to launch the KSLV-I, to fit the new rocket. In addition, the KARI will build a new launch pad for the three-stage rocket projectiles.

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