Seoul postpones launch of first space rocket

South Korea’s aerospace agency has suspended the launch of its first space rocket just eight minutes before its scheduled lift-off. The rocket was intended to send a domestically built scientific satellite into orbit.


REUTERS - South Korea’s aerospace agency suspended the launch of its first space rocket, with the countdown halted about eight minutes before its scheduled lift-off on Wednesday.


No reasons for the delay were immediately given. Local media reports said fuel was being removed from the booster rocket, indicating the launch would not take place for several days.


The launch was expected to rile neighbour North Korea, which was hit by U.N. sanctions after its fired off a long-range rocket in April in what was widely seen as a disguised missile test.


Pyongyang said it was paying close attention to the South’s rocket.


South Korea, which has relied on other countries to launch satellites, had planned to send a domestically built scientific satellite into orbit on the rocket Korea Space Launch Vehicle-1, also known as Naro-1.


The Naro-1 is 33 metres (108 ft) long and the two-stage rocket was built at a cost of 502.5 billion won ($400 million). Russia built the first-stage booster.


The rocket was placed back on a support pad at the South’s space centre located on the southern coast.


South Korea wants to build a rocket on its own by 2018 and send a probe to monitor the moon by 2025. It also wants to develop a commercial service to launch satellites.


But it lags far behind Japan, China, India, and to some extent North Korea, and is betting that after its first successful launch it can use its technical prowess to catch up quickly with its rivals.


South Korea’s space agency has tried to play down expectations for the launch, saying in a report that only about 30 percent of countries’ first attempts to put a satellite into orbit succeed.

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