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(Naro) Seoul begins final rehearsal for Naro space rocket launch

All Headlines 09:00 November 28, 2012

NARO SPACE CENTER, South Korea, Nov. 28 (Yonhap) -- South Korea kicked off a dress rehearsal for the launch of a space rocket on Wednesday, one day ahead of the planned blastoff from a space center on the country's south coast.

A final systems check was being conducted more thoroughly than ever as Thursday's launch of the Korea Space Launch Vehicle-1 (KSLV-1), also known as Naro-1, will be the country's third and last attempt to send the KSLV-1 into space from its own soil. The first two attempts in 2009 and 2010 ended in failures.

The final launch rehearsal is conducted in two separate stages with a launch simulation of the Russian-built first-stage rocket of Naro-1 expected to take around 7 hours and the launch simulation of the South Korean-built second-stage rocket taking about 4 hours from the start, according to the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI).

The current space program began in 2002, but the country's lack of experience and related technology forced it to entrust Russia's Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center with the development of the vital first-stage rocket. The upper second-stage rocket of Naro-1 was developed jointly by KARI and some 200 other South Korean companies and institutes.

A successful launch of the rocket on Thursday would make the country the world's 13th nation to send a space rocket from its own soil.

South Korea plans to develop its own 300-ton thrust engine by 2022 following the development of a 10-ton thrust engine in 2016 and a 75-ton engine in 2018.

Though the ongoing space program ends early next year, government officials said they will not be rushed to launch the space rocket.

""What matters is whether we succeed, not how fast we can launch the rocket," Lee Ju-ho, the minister of education, science and technology, said earlier.

The third launch of the KSLV-1 was originally set to take place on Oct. 26, but was delayed until now due to a damaged rubber seal in a connector between the rocket and its launch pad.

KARI officials said the launch may very well be delayed again if necessary, noting every item on a 600-point checklist must be satisfied before the rocket can be launched. The problem in the rubber seal discovered on Oct. 26 was only the 240th item on the checklist.

In addition to technical problems, bad weather conditions and heightened solar activities could also lead to a forced delay, they said.

Current weather forecasts expect clear skies near the Naro Space Center, 480 kilometers south of Seoul, on Thursday, but the exact time of the launch will be decided only after a final weather check at around noon on the tentative launch date, they added.

bdk@yna.co.kr
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