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(Naro) S. Korea poised to launch Naro space rocket
By Byun Duk-kun
NARO SPACE CENTER, South Korea, Jan. 30 (Yonhap) -- South Korea is set to launch its Korea Space Launch Vehicle-1 (KSLV-1) Wednesday, marking its third attempt to join the elite global space club.

   The KSLV-1, also known as Naro, is tentatively set to be blasted off at 4 p.m., but the exact time of its launch will be announced around 1:30 p.m. after the country's Launch Preparation Committee reviews the outcome of a final systems check that will begin earlier in the day.

   A final launch rehearsal conducted Tuesday did not yield any problems that might force yet another delay of the scheduled launch, officials from the science ministry and the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) said earlier.

   What will be a third launch of the KSLV-1 has been delayed twice from Oct. 26 and again from Nov. 29, both times due to defective parts. The two earlier launches in 2009 and 2010 ended in failures.

   Another factor that may lead to a delay is the condition of the weather, but the current forecast expects only partly cloudy skies around the Naro Space Center, the site of Wednesday's scheduled launch. The site is located 480 kilometers south of Seoul.

   Wednesday's launch, if it takes place, will mark the last launch under the Naro space program, regardless of its success or failure, as the joint development program with Russia ends later in the year.

   The lower, or first-stage rocket, of Naro was built by Russia's Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center with its upper or second-stage rocket developed jointly by KARI and some 200 other South Korean companies and institutes.

   The joint program began in 2002 as South Korea then lacked related technologies despite its growing need to develop its own means to deliver satellites into space.

   So far, the country has sent around 10 satellites into space, but all from foreign soil, using foreign rockets.

   Seoul has already launched a separate space program that seeks to develop an indigenous 10-ton thrust engine by 2016 and a 75-ton thrust engine by 2018. It plans to launch an indigenous, 300-ton thrust space rocket, carrying a 1.5-ton satellite, in 2021.

   Still, a success in Wednesday's launch would make South Korea the world's 13th nation to have ever sent a rocket into space from its own soil. The Naro rocket is also carrying a test satellite, Science and Technology Satellite-2C, that is designed to test the country's capabilities to deliver and deploy a satellite into space.

   bdk@yna.co.kr
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