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(2nd LD) S. Korea set to launch 1st space rocket at 5 p.m.

All Headlines 14:15 August 25, 2009

(ATTN: RECASTS headline, lead; UPDATES with more details throughout)
By Lee Joon-seung

NARO SPACE CENTER, South Korea, Aug. 25 (Yonhap) -- South Korea has officially set the launch time of its first space rocket for 5 p.m. Tuesday after a final check is made of liftoff systems readiness and weather conditions.

The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology said the Korea Space Launch Vehicle-1 (KSLV-1) and the scientific satellite it will carry are fully ready for blastoff from the Naro Space Center, located on the southern coast.

The launch has been postponed seven times since late 2005 due to a series of diplomatic, technical and construction-related hang-ups. The most recent delay was on last Wednesday, when a software glitch led officials to cancel the countdown with less than eight minutes before blastoff.

Full checks on all control, communication and mechanical systems conducted on Monday showed all on-board systems were functioning normally. Officials said weather conditions around the launch site are favorable with moderate winds and little chance of rain, but that local cloud formations could cause lightning.

"Sudden unforeseen weather conditions may delay the liftoff," said Vice Science and Technology Minister Kim Jung-hyun. He added that a window between 5:20 and 5:30 p.m. has been excluded from the possible launch times because there is a chance that space objects orbiting the Earth could collide with the rocket or satellite.

All engineers have left the area around the launch pad, Kim said. Fuel and oxidation agents are to be injected around 3 p.m. and the automatic countdown sequence will begin at 4:45 p.m. The engines are to be ignited 3.8 seconds before the rocket lifts off from the launch pad.

South Korea has spent 502.5 billion won (US$402.8 million) on the 140t KSLV-1, which stands 33m tall and has a diameter of 2.9m. Its main first stage liquid-fuel rocket, made in Russia, can generate 170t of thrust, with the second stage rocket, made domestically, able to generate 8t of thrust and designed to place a satellite into orbit 300km from the surface of the Earth.

Experts at the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) said that while the first stage of the KSLV-1 was made in Russia, South Korea has gained valuable know-how that may help it develop a rocket capable of carrying a 1.5t payload into space by 2018.

South Korea built the second stage, solid fuel rocket that houses the satellite in the KSLV-1, and has almost completed work on a liquid-fuel rocket with 30t of thrust. It hopes to launch a second, more powerful rocket in April 2010 and send an unmanned space probe to the moon by 2025.

Mission controllers, meanwhile, said over 1,900 police and soldiers have been stationed around the launch site to keep out unauthorized personnel and boats and aircraft from getting too close.


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