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Space rocket will not be able to meet original launch date: official

All Headlines 18:41 July 17, 2009

By Lee Joon-seung

SEOUL, July 17 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's first space rocket launch will be delayed due to unexpected developments in the final firing test of the main booster rocket, a government official said Friday.

Lee Sang-mok, deputy minister at the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, said Russian authorities asked for more time to upgrade the test control and evaluation programs needed for the critical test.

South Korea, with no experience in launching rockets, is working with Russia to acquire rocket technology and expertise that could allow it to send locally made space vehicles into orbit in the future.

"Because of the delay, it is physically impossible to meet the launch date set for July 30, and there may be a need to notify international aviation and maritime agencies of a new date next week," the official said.

Seoul had notified both the International Civil Aviation Organization and the International Maritime Organization that the launch would take between July 30 and Aug. 6.

Originally, Russia's Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center planned to conduct the "hot fire test" on July 27, with the actual launch of the Korea Space Launch Vehicle-1 (KSLV-1) to take place three days later.

The rocket fire test is important because engineers will fill the rocket with fuel and oxidation compounds and ignite it to simulate an actual launch.

There are currently two KSLV-1 rockets. The one planned for launch was delivered to South Korea last month, while the other is used by Khrunichev to conduct various tests related to turbo pumps, the jet motor and fuel pipes. Russia said it has successfully conducted a so-called cold flow test on the first stage of the KSLV-1.

"There is no way at present to tell when the launch will take place, but if the new programs are in place, the KSLV-1 can be prepared for launch 13-14 days after the live test is carried out successfully," he said.

The official stressed that if all tests are conducted and there are no problems, South Korea's first space rocket can be launched next month if weather conditions are favorable.

The ministry, meanwhile, said that since Russia is in charge of building and testing the first stage main booster, it will be responsible for any extra expenses incurred by the delay.

The rocket, developed at a cost of 502.5 billion won (US$398.8 million), stands 33m tall, has a diameter of just under 3m and weighs 140t. The first stage main booster rocket, made in Russia, has a thrust of 170t, while the smaller, second-stage indigenous rocket can generate 8t of thrust. The rocket is designed to deliver the 100kg satellite into orbit.

The government built the Naro Space Center, located 485km south of Seoul, to launch the KSLV-1 and future rockets.


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