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(LEAD) Technical inspection of Nuri space rocket under way after canceled launch

17:03 June 16, 2022

(ATTN: UPDATES with details throughout; REWRITES lead)

SEOUL, June 16 (Yonhap) -- South Korean aerospace engineers were inspecting the country's homegrown Nuri space rocket Thursday, a day after a last-minute technical glitch in the oxidizer tank sensor forced the country to call off the rocket launch.

The Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) on Wednesday decided to indefinitely postpone the launch of Nuri scheduled for Thursday after the sensor was seen malfunctioning during a final pre-launch check-up at the launch pad in Naro Space Center in Goheung, a southern coastal village some 470 kilometers south of Seoul.

KARI engineers held a technical inspection meeting for Nuri, which has been transported back to the assembly building, earlier in the day to try to identify the cause of the sensor malfunction.

In the afternoon, engineers began inspecting the internals of the first stage of Nuri, where the sensor in question was installed.

According to officials, readings on oxidizer tank sensors normally change during the rocket erection process. Readings on the sensor for Nuri, however, remained static during the process.

This photo provided by the Korea Aerospace Research Institute on June 16, 2021, shows the Nuri space rocket, also known as KSLV-II, transported back to the assembly building in Naro Space Center after its scheduled launch was called off. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

Officials said Wednesday they were not certain of the cause of the problem, saying that the sensor itself could be flawed, or it could be a cable or terminal box issue.

"If we are able to identify a problematic part, we would either replace or fix it. If we find no problem, we should then check the level sensor in the oxidizer tank and replace it if necessary," Koh Jung-hwan, head of KARI's space rocket development operation, said in a press briefing Thursday.

Koh said the engineers were proceeding with the inspection with caution, as the rocket has been prepped for launch, with its ignition system in place.

The ministry has set the period between Thursday and June 23 as the launch window. If the cause of the problem isn't identified and corrected within the period, the launch could be delayed to late autumn, after the end of the seasonal monsoon and typhoon period.

South Korea had initially planned to launch the rocket Wednesday in a mission to put multiple satellites into orbit, but it was delayed by a day due to strong winds.

In its first launch in October, Nuri successfully flew to a target altitude of 700 kilometers but failed to put a dummy satellite into orbit, as its third-stage engine burned out earlier than expected.

KARI engineers reinforced an anchoring device of the helium tank inside Nuri's third-stage oxidizer tank.

South Korea has invested nearly 2 trillion won (US$1.8 billion) in building Nuri since 2010. The project was carried out with domestically made technology on its own soil, including design, production, testing and launch operation.

The country plans to conduct four additional Nuri rocket launches by 2027 as part of efforts to further advance the country's space rocket program.



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