August 2, 2009

S. Korea’s First Satellite Launch Set For Aug 11

South Korea will launch its first space rocket from its territory on August 11, following repeated delays due to technical problems, officials reported on Saturday.

The country's Ministry of Education, Science and Technology said South Korea set the new launch date after talks with Russia, a co-builder of the rocket.

"Both sides have set August 11 for blast-off," said Kim Hong-Gab, a spokesman for the ministry-affiliated Korea Aerospace Research Institute, during an interview with the AFP news agency.

However, weather conditions on the launch day will be "a decisive factor" in determining if the new plan will proceed as scheduled, he added.

South Korea had originally planned to launch the Korea Space Launch Vehicle-1 (KSLV-1), a 220-pound communications satellite, on July 30.   But that plan was suspended, for a third time, after Russia requested more time to upgrade the test control and evaluation programs needed for a vital test.

Prior to that, the launch was delayed from late 2008 to late June 2009 when China's Sichuan earthquake last May caused problems securing crucial components for the mission.

The August 11 launch, which will take place at the newly constructed Naro Space Centre in Goheung, 300 miles south of Seoul, will put the satellite into a low earth orbit.

South Korea's first astronaut blasted into space aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket in April of 2008, and the nation has been eager to play a part in Asia's space race. 

In November 2007 Seoul announced a plan to launch a lunar orbiter by 2020, and to send a probe to the moon five years after that. The announcement came just one month after China launched its first lunar orbiter, and two month's after Japan's launch.


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