S. Korea poised for high-stake rocket launch

Jan 29, 2013 by Giles Hewitt
This handout photo provided by Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) on January 28, 2013 shows engineers and launch coordinators gathering near the Korea Space Launch Vehicle-I (KSLV-I) on its launch pad at the Naro Space Center in Goheung, 350 km south of Seoul.

South Korea was poised Wednesday for its third bid to send a satellite into orbit—a watershed moment for the future of the country's space programme and a high-stakes challenge to national pride.

The pressure surrounding the mission has risen considerably in the wake of rival North Korea's successful of a satellite on an indigenously-built carrier in December.

Final preparations for Wednesday's launch were also being made under the North's threat of an imminent nuclear test, which would quickly deflate any congratulatory bubble arising from a successful mission.

After two previous failures in 2009 and 2010, the 140-tonne Korea Vehicle (KSLV-I) was scheduled to blast off some time after 3:55pm (0655 GMT) from the Naro on the south coast.

Success would mean a huge boost for South Korea—a late entrant into the high-cost world of and exploration and desperate to get its commercial launch programme up and running.

Despite a very successful satellite construction programme, it faces a long slog to catch up with the other Asian powers with proven launch capability—China, Japan and India.

A final dress rehearsal was carried out on Tuesday, involving launch simulations of both the rocket's Russian-built first stage and the South Korean-built second stage.

Initially scheduled for October 26, the launch has already been twice postponed for technical reasons.

Successful or not, this will be the last launch under the current agreement with Russia which agreed to provide the first stage for a maximum of three rockets.

"The pressure is on the South Koreans like never before," said independent space analyst Morris Jones.

"There are several converging factors—the two previous failures, North Korea's success and the fact that this is the last chance with this particular rocket model," Jones said.

Seoul's space ambitions were restricted for many years by its main military ally the United States, which feared that a robust missile or rocket programme would accelerate a regional arms race, especially with .

After joining the Missile Technology Control Regime in 2001, South Korea made Russia its go-to space partner, but the relationship has not been an easy one.

In 2009, the rocket achieved orbit but faulty release mechanisms on the second stage prevented proper deployment of the satellite.

The second effort in 2010 saw the rocket explode two minutes into its flight, with both Russia and South Korea pointing the finger of blame at each other.

"Another failure would prompt a lot of mud-slinging," said Jones.

Whatever the outcome of Wednesday's launch, insists it remains committed to developing a totally indigenous three-stage, liquid-fuelled rocket capable of carrying a 1.5-tonne payload into orbit by 2021.

Explore further: Study of equatorial ridge on Iapetus suggests exogenic origin

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

S. Korea sets new window for rocket launch

Oct 29, 2012

South Korea said Monday it would make another attempt to send a satellite into space next month after a scheduled rocket launch last week was cancelled because of a technical glitch.

South Korean rocket launch set for Jan 30

Jan 24, 2013

South Korea confirmed Thursday that it will make another bid on January 30 to put a satellite in orbit and join an elite club of global space powers that includes China, Japan and India.

S. Korea satellite rocket launch Jan 30-Feb 8

Jan 16, 2013

South Korea will make another bid at the end of this month to put a satellite in orbit and gain entry to an elite global space club that includes Asian powers China, India and Japan.

S. Korea rocket launch set for Nov 29

Nov 22, 2012

South Korea plans to go ahead with a delayed rocket launch on Thursday next week in its third bid in four years to put a satellite into orbit, officials said.

South Korean rocket launch suspended

Nov 29, 2012

South Korean space officials suspended a crucial rocket launch Thursday, after a technical problem halted the countdown just 17 minutes before the scheduled blast-off.

Recommended for you

Another fireball explodes over Russia

1 hour ago

Why does Russia seem to get so many bright meteors? Well at 6.6 million square miles it's by far the largest country in the world plus, with dashboard-mounted cameras being so commonplace (partly to help ...

NASA's MMS observatories stacked for testing

2 hours ago

(Phys.org) —Engineers at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., accomplished another first. Using a large overhead crane, they mated two Magnetospheric Multiscale, or MMS, observatories – ...

ISEE-3 comes to visit Earth

3 hours ago

(Phys.org) —It launched in 1978. It was the first satellite to study the constant flow of solar wind streaming toward Earth from a stable orbit point between our planet and the sun known as the Lagrangian ...

Testing immune cells on the International Space Station

17 hours ago

The human body is fine-tuned to Earth's gravity. A team headed by Professor Oliver Ullrich from the University of Zurich's Institute of Anatomy is now conducting an experiment on the International Space Station ...

Easter morning delivery for space station

23 hours ago

Space station astronauts got a special Easter treat: a cargo ship full of supplies. The shipment arrived Sunday morning via the SpaceX company's Dragon cargo capsule.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Another fireball explodes over Russia

Why does Russia seem to get so many bright meteors? Well at 6.6 million square miles it's by far the largest country in the world plus, with dashboard-mounted cameras being so commonplace (partly to help ...

ISEE-3 comes to visit Earth

(Phys.org) —It launched in 1978. It was the first satellite to study the constant flow of solar wind streaming toward Earth from a stable orbit point between our planet and the sun known as the Lagrangian ...

NASA's MMS observatories stacked for testing

(Phys.org) —Engineers at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., accomplished another first. Using a large overhead crane, they mated two Magnetospheric Multiscale, or MMS, observatories – ...

Easter morning delivery for space station

Space station astronauts got a special Easter treat: a cargo ship full of supplies. The shipment arrived Sunday morning via the SpaceX company's Dragon cargo capsule.