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(LEAD)Seoul completes final rehearsal ahead of space rocket launch
By Byun Duk-kun
NARO SPACE CENTER, South Korea, Jan. 29 (Yonhap) -- A final launch simulation of the Korea Space Launch Vehicle-1 (KSLV-1) ended with no apparent problems Tuesday, one day ahead of the planned blastoff from the country's space center on the south coast, launch organizers said.

   The KSLV-1, also known as Naro, is tentatively set to lift off at 4 p.m. Wednesday from the Naro Space Center, 480 kilometers south of Seoul. The exact time of the launch is expected to be announced about two hours prior to the launch.

   The final rehearsal is designed to check all equipment and systems, including an automatic launch sequence. It was conducted in two separate stages -- a seven-hour simulation for the lower or first-stage rocket of Naro and a four-hour launch simulation checking the status of the South Korean-built upper or second-stage rocket, according to officials from the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI).

   The first stage of Naro has a 170-ton thrust and was built by Russia's Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center, as South Korea currently lacks related technology.

   Tuesday's dry rehearsal yielded no apparent problems that might force yet another delay of what will be the country's third launch of its KLSV-1 rocket. Still, it will take several more hours to analyze the outcome of the rehearsal and decide whether the launch will take place as scheduled, KARI officials said.

   The two earlier launches of the KSLV-1 in 2009 and 2010 ended in failure. Naro's third launch was originally set to take place on Oct. 26, and again on Nov. 29, but was delayed both times due to technical problems.

   "Korean and Russian engineers will hold a meeting of the Korea-Russia Flight Test Committee later in the day to review the outcome of the final launch rehearsal and determine if there are any problems," KARI said in a released statement.

   The test committee will then report its review of the rehearsal to the country's Launch Preparation Committee, which in turn will decide whether the launch will take place as scheduled.

   Regardless of the success or failure of Wednesday's launch, it will mark the last launch under the Naro space program that began in 2002 jointly with Russia due to South Korea's lack of related technologies.

   However, Seoul is already moving to develop an indigenous 75-ton thrust engine, which will be used in a group of four to create a 300-ton thrust engine that is scheduled to be launched in 2021.

   Weather conditions are another factor that need to be taken into consideration when setting an actual launch date. Current weather forecasts predict partly cloudy skies around the Naro Space Center on Wednesday, but KARI officials earlier said they should not be a major problem.

   The country has at least until Feb. 8 to try and send the KSLV-1 into space before it has to receive permission with international aviation bodies for new candidate dates.

   A successful launch of the Naro would make South Korea the world's 13th nation to have ever sent off a space rocket from its own soil. The country has so far sent around 10 satellites into space, but all were launched from foreign soil and used foreign space rockets.

   bdk@yna.co.kr
(END)
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