Mating the Indigenous KSLV-1 Second Stage with the Angara
It always helps to go back and read the original documents, even to things you think you know fairly well. I found myself doing that recently when a number of ( wonk-readers questioned the MTCR-soundness of Russia’s sale of the Angara as a first stage for the KSLV-1. Now that the announced launch window for the KSLV-1 has come and gone (and with it the delegation from the DPRK) and they are still fixing the software problem, it might be a good idea to review the MTCRs relevance as we await developments. Not only is it interesting in and of itself, but it also might help define exactly what is South Korea’s space launcher development path.
First, selling the Republic of Korea the Angara counts as a category I sale (specifically Category I, Item 2), the sale of an individual rocket stage, according to the MTCR Equipment, Software, and Technology Annex. However, selling Category I items is still left up to the discretion of the seller if that country believes it will not be used for delivering weapons of mass destruction. Additional items that Russia might have considered selling ROK (but my guess is that they didn’t) include a guidance set suitable for putting something in orbit. Even SCUD guidance sets would be considered Category I. Of course, once Russia, along with the most of the rest of the world, has reached the conclusion that the ROK isn’t going to develop WMD, it can sell almost anything except production equipment. The guidelines clearly say that the “strong presumption” would be to deny the sale of production facilities for Category I items.
Instead, I think it will turn out that the ROK developed its own guidance set, which after all would also have to be used for the indigenously developed second stage. By purchasing a powerful first stage (but not its production facilities), the ROK can continue to develop its liquid-propellant technology in parallel with the orbital insertion technology which it will exercise during the KSLV-1 launch.
As a number of readers point out, South Korea did launch the KSLV-1 during the previously announced period. (I must have missed the announcements some how.) Initial media reports indicate that the “orbital injection” was somewhat higher than intended. Perhaps there was an attitude determination/control issue or some other guidance issue.
Update (9:45 EDT 26 Aug 2009):
As of this morning, the NORAD catalog still does not have the South Korean satellite listed so its looking more and more like it failed to make it into orbit.
Bloomberg. com is reporting that the nose fairing failed to separate , causing the satellite to fail to get to orbital velocity. I’m a little surprise at that AND the report that the satellite was inserted into a higher than planned orbit. Perhaps that was just the peak trajectory reached? Or perhaps its just media noise?