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South-Korea's KSLV launch vehicle

In March 2002, Moscow-based GKNPTs Khrunichev started negotiations with South-Korean representatives on the possible joint development of the first launch vehicle for Korean Aerospace Research Institute, KARI. According to Khrunichev, it won the South-Korean contract in a fierce competition with a number of other contenders in various countries. However, according to American sources, they "rejected" South-Korean overtures over the concerns for the proliferation of rocket technology.

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KSLV-1 rocket and its flight profile.

South-Korean KSLV project

Russia provided the standard URM booster from the Angara project to serve as the first stage of the Korean launch vehicle. South Korea would develop its own second stage, burning solid propellant. A total of 200 South-Korean companies and institutions worked on the development of the second stage. (593)

The Russian side would also supply documentation for the servicing of the system and conduct technical supervision of the launch complex construction in South Korea. Russian KBTM design bureau took responsibility for the development of the launch facility. However ground support hardware for both the processing and launch complex would be manufactured at South Korea based on Russian blueprints. The work would reportedly involve automotive and aviation and ship-building industry in South Korea.

All launches of the vehicle would be conducted by joint Russian-Korean teams. At GKNPTs Khrunichev, the company's veteran Sergei Shaevich served as the director of the KSLV project, with V. V. Sinitsin working as the chief designer.

The condition for the agreement was Korea's compliance with international legislation on non-proliferation of rocket technology. Using Russian documentation, South Korea would build hardware for the launch facility, while a joined Russian-Korean team would conduct a flight test program. Like the URM booster on the Angara rocket, KSLV's first stage would feature a version of a single RD-191 engine, known as RD-151.

The second stage of the KSLV-1 rocket burning solid propellant would be developed in South Korea based on the experience with KSR-1, KSR-2 and KSR-3 rockets, which flew a total of four successful suborbital missions. The first two vehicles had solid-propellant motors, however the third was equipped with a liquid-propellant engine.

Launches of KSLV rockets were to take place from the Naro Space Center in Goheung, on an island off the country's southern coast and around 480 kilometers south of the nation's capital, Seoul. The launch center occupied an area of around six square kilometers.

The formal agreement on the KSLV project was signed during a visit of Korean president No Mu-hyon to Moscow in September 2004. The full-scale development started in mid-2005. Around that time, the first launch of the KSLV-1 rocket was expected in October 2007. It was then postponed to December 2008 and ultimately took place and failed in August 2009. The first 100-kilogram South-Korean satellite was expected to enter a near-polar 300 by 1,000-kilometer orbit. The second launch was originally planned for 2008. If successful, two sides could proceed with the development of two more powerful versions of the rocket by 2010 and 2015, increasing its payload capability from 100 kilograms to 1,000 and 1,500 kilograms. (355)

However following two botched launches in 2009 and 2010, blamed by the Russian side on the Korean-built upper stage, the third rocket would not reach the launch pad until the fall of 2012.

Third mission

At the beginning of 2011, developers reportedly clashed over the price of the engine for KSLV, with NPO Energomash asking 295 million rubles and GKNPTs Khrunichev offering only 210 million. (563)

During a visit to GKNPTs Khrunichev by the Deputy Chairman of the Russian Government Dmitry Rogozin on May 5, 2012, the company issued a press-release promising the third launch of the KSLV rocket at the end of the year. During the night from August 22 to August 23, the third KSLV rocket was shipped by rail to Ulyanovsk, Russia, from where the Polyot company was to carry the vehicle onboard a transport aircraft to Pusan, South Korea, before another trip by rail to the Naro space center. Khrunichev would not publicly disclose the fact of shipment until four days later.

On October 24, 2012, the third KSLV-1 rocket was rolled out from its processing building to the launch pad and erected into vertical position. Its launch was scheduled for October 26 between 3:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. local time, however a helium leak in the interface between the rocket's first stage and the launch pad discovered few hours before a scheduled liftoff required to postpone the mission for at least three days. The rocket had to be removed from the launch pad and returned to the processing building. On October 28, the Interfax news agency quoted Russian industry sources as saying that required seal replacements and a three-day countdown operations would not be completed by the end of the launch window on October 31, thus pushing any next launch attempt to the middle of November as the earliest. On October 29, Korean Aerospace Research Institute, KARI, announced that the next launch attempt would take place on November 9, with the launch window extending until November 24.

By the end of November, the mission was postponed to 2013. Before the end of 2012, the launch was expected as early as Jan. 25-26, but the attempt was actually set for January 30. This time, the launch window extended until February 8, 2013. The vehicle was rolled out to the launch pad on January 28.

According to a report in the Dong-A Ilbo on Jan. 10, 2013, the KARI institute replaced the electrical box of the electric motor pump in the upper part of the rocket. A source at KARI was quoted as saying that "a simple defect in the electrical box caused the problem. Burning coils caused power surges. We confirmed that everything worked as normal last week after replacing the electrical box in the upper rocket.”

South-Korean rocket succeeds in lauching a satellite

Published: 2013 Jan. 30

The South Korean launch vehicle built with Russian help finally succeded in delivering a satellite into orbit on its third attempt.

The KSLV-1 rocket carrying the STSAT-2C spacecraft lifted off from the Naro space center on Jan. 30, 2013, at 4 p.m. Korean time (2 a.m. EST, 11:00 Moscow Time). The exact liftoff time was publicly announced around two hours before the actual launch attempt.

Both previous launches of the KSLV-1 rocket failed to reach orbit. The first stage of the KSLV rocket burning liquid oxygen and kerosene was developed at GKNPTs Khrunichev in Moscow. It closely resembled a standard booster of the yet-to-be-introduced Angara family of launch vehicles.

KSLV's second stage was powered by a solid-propellant engine developed in South Korea.

Plans for KSLV-2

Regardless of the outcome of the third mission, it would be the last launch of the Russian-built KSLV vehicle, to be followed by the development of the first stage for the next-generation KSLV rocket entirely in Korea. Thus, it would be also the last chance for Moscow-based GKNPTs Khrunichev to test the first stage of the Angara launcher before its introduction. According to the five-year program, South Korea planned develop a liquid propellant engine with a thrust of 10 tons by 2016, followed by the 75-ton engine by 2018. It would pave the way to a fully indigenous South-Korean launch vehicle. As of 2012, its maiden flight was promised in 2021. (593)


KSLV development milestones

2002 March: GKNPTs Khrunichev started negotiations with South-Korean representatives on the possible joint development of the first launch vehicle for Korean Aerospace Research Institute, KARI.

2005: GKNPTs Khrunichev started the development of the South Korean launch vehicle, KSLV.

2009 Aug. 25: A South-Korean Naro-1 (KSLV-1) launch vehicle, fails to deliver the STSAT-2 satellite from the Naro space center, South Korea, due to an upper stage failure, despite initial reports about a successful launch. However Russian-built first stage, which was identical to the Angara's URM-1 booster, reportedly performs well. The mission was delayed from mid-August 2009.

2010 June 10: A South-Korean KSLV-1 launch vehicle fails some 136-137 seconds after the launch during the powered flight of the Khrunichev-built first stage. A simultaneous loss of telemetry and a bright flash of light are recorded at the time of a mishap. The failure could have major implications for a long-delayed maiden mission of the Angara rocket.

2012 Aug. 22-23: GKNPTs Khrunichev ships the third KSLV-1 vehicle to South Korea.

2012 Oct. 26: A technical problem with the first stage requires to return the third KSLV-1 rocket to the processing building.


A complete list of launches of the KSLV-1 (Naro-1) rocket:

Launch date
Time of launch
2009 Aug. 25
17:00 Seoul time



2010 June 10
17:00 Seoul Time
2013 Jan. 30
16:00 Seoul Time


Specifications of the KSLV-1 launch vehicle:

Total length
33.0 meters
Diameter of the first stage
2.9 meters
Stage 1 length
25.8 meters
Stage 2 length
2.4 meters
Payload fairing length
5.3 meters



This page is maintained by Anatoly Zak with additions from George Chambers

Last update: October 21, 2021

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Impact zones for a payload fairing and the first stage during launches of the KSLV-1 rocket.


On August 25, 2009, a Russian-built booster powered by RD-191 engine lifted the first South-Korean space vehicle (top), paving the way to the Angara family of rockets. However, the mission itself failed due to the failure of the Korean-built upper stage.


Final tests of the third KSLV-1 rocket in July 2012. Credit: GKNPTs Khrunichev


The third KSLV-1 rocket is being rolled out to the launch pad in October 2012. Credit: GKNPTs Khrunichev


The third KSLV-1 rocket sits on the launch pad in October 2012. Credit: GKNPTs Khrunichev


The second stage of the KSLV-1 launch vehicle. Credit: KBS


The third KSLV-1 rocket 40 minutes before its launch attempt on Jan. 30, 2013. Credit: KBS


The third KSLV-1 rocket lifts off on Jan. 30, 2013. Credit: KBS