By Byun Duk-kun
NARO SPACE CENTER, South Korea, Nov. 29 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's third attempt to send a space rocket from its own soil was again pushed back Thursday due to problems in the upper second-stage rocket of the Korea Space Launch Vehicle-1.
When the launch will be possible was to be determined later, according to Cho Yul-rae, vice minister for science and technology, but other officials said the launch will be delayed by at least four days.
"Abnormal signals from the thrust vector system of the upper (second) stage rocket of Naro have been detected," Cho told a press briefing.
Thrust vectoring refers to the ability of an aircraft or rocket to manipulate the direction of the thrust from its engine, and thus control the altitude or angular velocity of the vehicle.
An official from the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) said the system was consuming an excessive amount of electric current, which in electrical devices like the system is usually caused by a short circuit.
"That is in the case of ordinary devices. In our case, we have to open the electric box (in the system) to be able to say what exactly went wrong," the official said.
Science Minister Lee Ju-ho said a new launch date will be announced later after the problem is more thoroughly investigated and fixed.
The KARI official said it will take at least four days before the rocket can be made ready to be launched.
Because the rocket is currently filled with liquefied oxygen, they have to first discharge the extremely cold liquid and then wait 24 hours for the rocket to warm up before it can be taken down for an inspection.
Taking apart the rocket and its defective part will take at least another day while putting the rocket back on the launch pad and getting it ready for a launch requires at least two days.
The rocket, also known as the Naro, was set to be launched at 4 p.m., but the countdown was halted with less than 17 minutes left before the scheduled launch.
It marks the second time the country's third attempt to fire off a space rocket has been delayed. An earlier plan to launch the space rocket on Oct. 26 was delayed due to a damaged seal in the connector between Naro's Russian-built first-stage rocket and the launch pad.
The country's two earlier attempts to launch the space rocket in 2009 and 2010 ended in failures.
The Naro is a two-stage rocket with the Russian-built first stage and a South Korean-developed second stage rocket. A research satellite, developed indigenously by the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, sits on top of the rocket that weighs 140 tons when fully loaded.
The Naro space program began in 2002 as there was a growing need for South Korea to deliver satellites into space on its own.
The country has so far sent about 10 satellites into space but all from foreign soil, using foreign rockets. A successful launch of Naro-1 will make the country the world's 13th nation to have successfully sent a rocket into space from its own soil.
All three first-stage rockets of Naro-1 in South Korea's two failed attempts and the upcoming launch were built by Russia's Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center, but a separate space program is already underway to develop an indigenous 10-ton thrust engine by 2016.
It will be followed by the development of a 75-ton thrust engine in 2018 and a 300-ton thrust engine that can carry a 1.5-ton satellite into space in 2021.
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