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Rocket launch is halted due to a technical glitch

Nation’s first space satellite will need to wait for a new date before blastoff   PLAY AUDIO

Aug 20,2009
A standing pad moves to support the country’s first space rocket, the Korea Space Launch Vehicle-1, after the launch was suddenly suspended yesterday at the Naro Space Center in Goheung, South Jeolla, due to technical reasons. [YONHAP]
GOHEUNG, South Jeolla - The much-anticipated launch of Korea’s first space rocket was abruptly suspended in the middle of the countdown yesterday due to technical problems. The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology announced a new launch date would be set later.

The countdown was at seven minutes and 56 seconds before the blastoff of the Korea Space Launch Vehicle-1, or KSLV-1, at the space center in Goheung, South Jeolla, when the mission control center announced the suspension.

Following the aborted countdown, the rocket was defueled and a standing pad that holds the rocket upright was reattached. “There was a problem in the automatic launch sequence that caused the launch to be called off,” said Lee Joo-jin, head of the Korea Aerospace Research Institute, or Kari.

Experts from Korea and Russia are jointly investigating the exact reason for the malfunction. South Korean Prime Minister Han Seung-soo and Education Minister Ahn Byong-man, who sat inside a post placed beside the mission control center at the space center to view the launch, seemed perplexed by the sudden suspension.

Russian experts reveal their discouragement yesterday at the mission control center after the abrupt suspension of the launch. [Joint Press Corps]
People who were anxiously watching the countdown on TV expressed emotions varying from disappointment to near outrage that the project had been delayed for a seventh time.

“I am filled with both disappointment and sadness due to the death of former [South Korean] President Kim Dae-jung followed by the suspension of the launch,” said Park Jae-hyun.

People who made the trip to the space center to watch the blastoff were even more frustrated.

Two navy vessels allowed some 300 people aboard to give them a good view of the launch. But in the end there was little to see.

“A sudden suspension of the rocket launch during the countdown is not an unusual thing. It is too early to conclude the launch suspension is a serious problem,” said Jang Young-keun, professor of aerospace engineering at Korea Aerospace University in Goyang, Gyeonggi. “Even if the countdown is down to the last minute, the launch has to be stopped if problems are spotted. Other advanced countries do the same.”

The launch of the rocket had been delayed in the past, mainly due to technical reasons associated with the construction and certification of the new vehicle. There have also been delays in the building of the launch pad.

After a contingency meeting on Tuesday in the wake of the death of former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung, officials and engineers decided to go forward with the launch.

If successful, the launch of the rocket could make Korea the 10th country to send a satellite into orbit from its own shores. The two-engine rocket weighs about 140 tons and is 25.8 meters (84.6 feet) high.



By Park Bang-ju, Lee Min-yong [smartpower@joongang.co.kr]



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