July 14, 2009

South Korea To Launch First Homegrown Satellite

South Korea plans to send its own satellite into orbit before the end of this month, space officials announced on Tuesday.

"It will mark the first time that South Korea will launch a satellite from its own territory, using its own launch vehicle," Park Jeong-Joo, director of the Korea Aerospace Research Institute, told reporters on Tuesday.

Park said the launch vehicle, which was developed for $388 million with Russian officials, would carry the 220-pound satellite into low earth orbit on July 20. The craft will liftoff from the Naro Space Center in Gohueng.

"Russia turned out to be the most cooperative and willing partner in transferring technology and it has highly developed space technology," he said.

South Korea launched its first astronaut into space earlier this year, via a Russian Soyuz rocket.

The experimental satellite launch comes just four months after North Korea announced its own satellite launch. However, experts say they have not detected a satellite in orbit following North Korea's exercise, and it is believed that the nation was testing its long-range Taepodong missile.

But South Korea said its satellite launch is not to be compared with that of its neighbor to the North.

"We can't put the North's rocket launch on a parallel with ours, which is purely for scientific and peaceful purposes," Park told reporters.

Furthermore, as a part of a pact with the United States, South Korea is allowed only to own missiles with a range of 300 km or less.

South Korea has launched 10 satellites into space from various launch sites outside of its territory, which Park said was a far less costly approach.

"However, if a country has to rely on foreign countries for the most fundamental space transportation systems, it would be at a big disadvantage in terms of technology protection and security," he said.


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