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(Naro) Naro-1 space rocket carries future of S. Korean satellites
NARO SPACE CENTER, South Korea, Jan. 30 (Yonhap) -- The Korea Space Launch Vehicle-1 (KSLV-1) set to be launched Wednesday carries a significant meaning for the future of South Korea's space development program.

   The space rocket also known as the Naro, however, is also literally carrying a significant part of South Korea's space program: its payload, the Science and Technology Satellite-2C (STSAT-2C).

   The test satellite, weighing only 100 kilograms, was developed indigenously by the country's Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST).

   By definition, it is a satellite partly designed to test the country's rocket launching capabilities, which have proven unsuccessful in two earlier attempts to send the KSLV-1 into space in August 2009 and June 2010.

   However, both the space rocket and STSAT-2C are only the beginning of South Korea's long-term plan to develop an indigenous 300-ton thrust engine that can carry a 1.5-ton satellite into space.

   The Naro, a two-stage rocket, uses a Russian built first-stage thrust engine that can generate a 170-ton thrust. The upper or second-stage rocket of the Naro is jointly developed by over 200 South Korean institutes and companies led by the state-run Korea Aerospace Research Institute.

   Regardless of the outcome of its third and last launch of the KSLV-1 on Wednesday, Seoul will launch a new five-year space program that seeks to develop an indigenous 10-ton thrust engine by 2016, followed by a 75-ton engine in 2018.

   The country hopes to build its own 300-ton thrust engine for a launch in 2021.

   The STSAT-2C, on the other hand, is a concentration of the latest technologies that will continue to prove helpful in the country's space exploration in the future.

   The most remarkable equipment put on the 2 billion won (US$1.85 million) satellite is a femtosecond laser oscillator that emits ultra short pulses but has never before been tested in space.

   A femtosecond is one quadrillionth, or one millionth of one billionth, of a second. A femtosecond is to a second what a second is to about 31.7 million years, according to the Korea Aerospace Research Institute.

   If Wednesday's launch is successful, the satellite will be put into an ellipsoidal orbit of 300 by 1,500 kilometers, orbiting the Earth every 103 minutes or about 14 times a day.

   Since its main purpose is to test the country's rocket launching capabilities, the satellite only has an operational lifespan of one year.

   Still, its successful launch and deployment into space will make South Korea the 13th nation to send a satellite into space from its own soil. The country has so far sent about 10 satellites into space, but all from foreign soil, using foreign space rockets.

   bdk@yna.co.kr
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