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(Naro) Third time's a charm, but Naro still faces difficult odds
NARO SPACE CENTER, South Korea, Jan. 29 (Yonhap) -- South Korea is set to make its third attempt to join the global space club this week, but it still faces a task that has proven extremely difficult for many before, experts said Tuesday.

   The country plans to launch its Korea Space Launch Vehicle-1 (KSLV-1) from its Naro Space Center on Wednesday. It will be the country's third launch of the KSLV-1 after two earlier attempts in 2009 and 2010 ended in failure.

   The first attempt on Aug. 25, 2009, ended in what the Korea Aerospace Research Institute called a half-success, as the rocket, also known as Naro, reached its target altitude but was unable to deploy the satellite it carried due to a problem with the fairings that protect the payload.

   The second launch of the space rocket on June 10, 2010, ended in utter failure when the rocket exploded only 137 seconds after liftoff. The cause of the explosion is still unknown after several rounds of joint investigations by South Korean and Russian experts. Russia built the lower or first stage rocket of the KSLV-1 with the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) and some 200 other companies and institutes built the smaller upper stage of Naro.

   Experts said the first two failures highlight the difficulties associated with sending a rocket into space, at least in the initial stage of a space development program, such as South Korea's.

   Russia, for instance, launched 3,159 space rockets between 1950 and 2011 and has a success rate of 93.6 percent, or 2,957 successful launches. However, the country's success rate in the 1950s, when its space program first began, was only around 37 percent, according to KARI.

   "The United States' success rate in the 1950s when it, too, was in the early stages of its space development program, was at around 66 percent. Both of the two countries' failure rates stabilized only after the 1970s," the research institute said.

   Japan, whose rocket development program began in the 1960s, had a 100 percent failure rate in the early stages, while the success rate of China and India also remained below 50 percent through the early stages of their separate programs, according to KARI.

   "As can be seen, most of the countries that now have a high success rate had low rates of less than 60 percent during the early stages of their development. It can also be seen that it takes at least 10 years of efforts and experiments before a country can achieve a stable success rate," it said.

   Again highlighting difficulties involved in sending a space rocket into orbit, the country was twice forced to delay its third launch of the KSLV-1, which was originally set for Oct. 26 and again on Nov. 29, both due to technical problems.

   If Thursday's launch of the KSLV-1 is successful, South Korea will become the world's 13th nation to have successfully sent an indigenous satellite into space from its own soil.

   The country has so far put 10 satellites into orbit, but all were launched from foreign soil, using foreign rockets.

   Separate from the Naro space program, South Korea is moving to develop an indigenous rocket with a 10-ton thrust engine by 2016, followed by a 75-ton thrust engine in 2018. The country plans to develop and send a 300-ton thrust space rocket, carrying a 1.5-ton satellite, into space in 2021.

   bdk@yna.co.kr
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