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(5th LD) S. Korea's first space rocket launch fails to send satellite into orbit

All Headlines 19:59 August 25, 2009

(ATTN: UPDATES with more details throughout)
By Lee Joon-seung

NARO SPACE CENTER, South Korea, Aug. 25 (Yonhap) -- South Korea failed to become the 10th country in the world to send a satellite into orbit from its soil after its first space rocket "overshot" its trajectory during Tuesday's launch.

The Korea Space Launch Vehicle-1 (KSLV-1) that blasted off from the Naro Space Center at 5 p.m. delivered its satellite payload far above its intended orbit, despite successful ignition and separation of its first and second stage rockets, the government said.

It said preliminary data placed the final satellite separation at around 342km, compared to the 306km that was anticipated.

"There is a need to carefully examine all data related to the satellite," Education and Science Minister Ahn Byong-man told reporters.

He claimed that because the KSLV-1 functioned properly and reached space, the rocket liftoff itself should be viewed as a "half-success" and that every effort will be made to ensure the success of the next launch, slated for May 2010.

The first-stage liquid fueled rocket was made in Russia, but the second stage was made in South Korea, along with the fairing assembly that housed the scientific satellite.

The minister stressed the launch would provide valuable experience for future space exploration efforts.

Related to the launch, KARI President Lee Joo-jin said efforts are underway to determine how the satellite separated so far above its proper orbit trajectory.

"Since the 100kg scientific satellite does not have any on-board propulsion systems, if it fails to enter proper orbit there is no way to correct its trajectory," the expert said.

He declined to say whether the satellite was lost or if it went into orbit, but cannot be found.

Related to the launch, a unidentified source at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology said there is a chance that the fairings that cover the satellite did not separate properly, which may have been the main cause of the mishap.

The government had said the fairings had successfully separated in the ascent.

South Korea spent 502.5 billion won (US$402.4 million) on the development of the 140t KSLV-1, which stands 33m tall and has a diameter of 2.9m. It also built the scientific satellite.

The launch of the KSLV-1, also called the Naro-1, was delayed seven times, with the last postponement taking place Wednesday, when the countdown was halted with less than eight minutes on the countdown clock.


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