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(Rocket Launch) (2nd LD) S. Korea reschedules first rocket launch for Aug. 25

All Headlines 16:22 August 21, 2009

(ATTN: UPDATES with more details, comments from para 3)
By Lee Joon-seung

SEOUL, Aug. 21 (Yonhap) -- South Korea has rescheduled its first space rocket launch from its own territory for Aug. 25 after a technical glitch halted the countdown minutes before blastoff, the government said Friday.

The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology said the new date reflects weather conditions and time needed to prepare the Korea Space Launch Vehicle-1 (KSLV-1) and its scientific satellite for a safe launch.

"We have tentatively set the launch time for 5 p.m., Tuesday (Seoul Time), although this may be altered depending on various developments," said Vice Science and Technology Minister Kim Jung-hyun.

He said the weather and location of other satellites circling the globe can affect the liftoff time of the locally assembled rocket also called Naro-1.

Seoul has informed the International Civil Aviation Organization and the International Maritime Organization that it will launch between 4:40 p.m. and 6:20 p.m. This "window" will give sufficient time for the satellite to deploy its solar panels and generate power.

The liftoff was originally set for 5 p.m. Wednesday but was called off after the automatic launch sequence detected a drop in pressure inside a helium tank that controls various valves less than eight minutes before launch. Experts have since said that there were no mechanical problems in the rocket and that the countdown was halted because sensor software misinterpreted data.

The delay marked the seventh time since 2005 that the launch date has been set back due to technical issues and other unforeseen developments in the building of the launch facilities.

"Engineers who have moved the Naro-1 to the assembly complex from the launch pad have fixed the software problem that halted the countdown earlier in the week and have checked other systems," he said. Further check-ups are planned for Saturday before the rocket is moved back to the launch pad on Sunday.

In case of another delay in the launch, Seoul will try again on Wednesday. The rocket is designed for such unexpected delays with engineers having rehearsed repeatedly to empty the rocket of fuel and oxidation agents.

Related to preparations, the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) -- the state-run organization in charge of the country's space program -- said that while the rocket has been thoroughly checked, there is no 100 percent guarantee that another problem will not arise to halt the countdown again.

"If a problem is detected, the countdown will be stopped," said KARI head Lee Joo-jin. He also said that in case the rocket explodes or fails to reach proper orbit, South Korea can, under its agreement with Russia, launch two more rockets.

Seoul, with no experience in designing or building powerful rockets capable of carrying satellites into space, has teamed up with Russia to build the Naro-1.

The rocket stands 33 meters tall with a diameter of 2.9 meters. Its main first stage liquid-fuel rocket, made in Russia, can generate 170 tons of thrust. The second stage rocket, made indigenously, can generate eight tons of thrust and is designed to place a satellite into orbit.


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