July 17, 2009

S Korea Delays Rocket Launch For Third Time

The launch of South Korea's first space rocket intended for July 30 is likely to be postponed to add more time for testing, according to a spokesman for the Korea Aerospace Research Institute.

Spokesman Kim Hong-Gab told AFP on Friday that the launch would be delayed beyond the intended date due to demands from Russian partners for further testing.

The announcement marks the third time South Korea has put off the first satellite launch from within its own territory using its own launch vehicle. It was initially intended to liftoff late last year, but was delayed until June of this year due to the earthquake in Sichuan, China.

Project managers delayed the launch again until late July for further testing.

"It's now hard to meet the original schedule. We have to negotiate with the Russians on a new launch date," Kim told AFP.

The launch vehicle was developed at a cost of $388 million with Russian officials to carry a 220-pound satellite into low earth orbit. The craft is intended to launch 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," Park Jeong-Joo, director of the Korea Aerospace Research Institute, told reporters on Tuesday.

The experimental satellite launch comes just 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 on Tuesday.

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.

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


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