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(News Focus) (Naro) Successful rocket launch opens new chapter for S. Korea

All Headlines 17:53 January 30, 2013

By Byun Duk-kun

NARO SPACE CENTER, South Korea, Jan. 30 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's apparently successful launch of its first-ever space rocket has opened a new chapter in the country's history as well as unlimited room and opportunities for its space development program, experts said Wednesday.

The Korea Space Launch Vehicle-1 (KSLV-1) lifted off from the country's Naro Space Center at 4 p.m. An initial confirmation of whether the launch was successful will be made when and if the beacon signal from the rocket's payload satellite is detected by a ground station in Norway about 140 minutes after its takeoff from the launch site, located 480 kilometers south of Seoul.

The satellite will make its first contact with South Korea's own ground station in approximately 12 hours after the liftoff of the space rocket, also known as Naro.

However, officials from the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) noted the launch itself appears to have been successful with the satellite also safely deployed into its intended orbit.

The experts said the confirmation of successful deployment of the satellite will mark success not only in Wednesday's rocket launch but also in the country's current space program.

"I do not believe the satellite will cause any problem as our country possesses one of the most advanced satellite technologies," said Lee Chang-jin, a professor of aerospace engineering from Seoul's Konkuk University.

"But if the launch is, in fact, determined to have been successful, its significance will just be enormous. It will mean the scope of areas our country has access to has been expanded into space," he said in a telephone interview with Yonhap.

The current Naro space program began in 2002 with the help of Russia, as Seoul had then lacked related technologies. The lower or first-stage rocket of Naro was built by Russia's Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center with the upper or second-stage rocket of Naro built jointly by KARI and some 200 other South Korean companies and institutes.

Many doubt even a successful launch of the KSLV-1 will offer any help to Seoul's future development of its own space launch vehicles, especially as Russia strictly denied South Korean engineers any access to its rocket technology.

An official from KARI noted the lower stage of a space rocket is of course more important than the upper part of a rocket, but said that did not mean the country's indigenous upper-stage engine used in Naro was insignificant.

"The first-stage rocket is important but the first-stage rocket is not all we need. We also need to have a second-stage thrust engine and the technology to separate different stages of a space rocket, as well as the means to monitor and follow a space rocket," the official said.

"In that sense, we now only have to develop a first-stage rocket," he added.

The Konkuk University professor agreed.

"The successful launch of the Naro means we have comprehensively tested all the required capabilities and that we were successful in everything only except for the first-stage rocket," Lee said.

The Naro space program is set to end in April, but the country is already moving to develop its own 10-ton thrust engine by 2016 and a 75-ton thrust engine by 2018.

It plans to develop and launch an indigenous 300-ton thrust space rocket in 2021.

Wednesday's launch, if confirmed successful, will make South Korea the world's 13th nation to have ever sent a satellite into space from its own soil.

South Korea had so far sent about 10 satellites into space, but all of them were launched from foreign soil, using foreign space rockets.


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