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S Korea Postpones First Rocket Launch

August 19, 2009

Minutes before the scheduled launch time, South Korea postponed the deployment of its first rocket on Wednesday.

At 4:52 pm (0752 GMT) ““ just 8 minutes before scheduled liftoff ““ mission managers canceled the launch of the Korea Space Launch Vehicle, intended to carry a satellite into orbit.

Shortly after the canceled launch, mission controllers began dumping fuel at the Naro Space Center. They said they hope to get another launch attempt in coming days.

“There was a problem in the automatic launch sequence that caused the launch to be called off,” Korea Aerospace Research Institute head Lee Joo-Jin told Yonhap news agency.

He added that a new launch date would be set after South Korean space officials met with experts from Russia, which has partnered with the nation for the launch.

South Korea’s Space Launch Vehicle-1, or Naro-1, was developed at a price of 50.5 billion won ($400 million) to carry a 220-lb satellite intended to monitor the Earth’s radiant energy.

South Korea has sent 10 other satellites into orbit, but each mission involved assistance from launch vehicles developed in other countries.

The nation has long-term plans to launch a lunar probe by 2025. 

South Korea’s neighbor to the north will be watching the launch carefully to see if it is referred to the UN Security Council. North Korea has been defiant against being punished for its April 5 launch with UN Security Council sanctions.

North Korea claims that it launched a communications satellite into orbit, although South Korea and the US say that no satellite was detected in orbit. Rather, they believe that North Korea used the launch to disguise a Taepodong-2 missile test.

“North Korea is not happy with South Korea acquiring advanced space rocket technology,” Baek Seung-Joo of the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses told AFP.

“The South Koreans have developed their program in a very open and transparent way, and in keeping with the international agreements that they have signed on to,” US State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said Tuesday.

“This is in stark contrast to the example set by North Korea, which has not abided by its international agreements.”

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