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South Korea delays rocket launch

RIA Novosti

10:52 09/06/2010 MOSCOW, June 9 (RIA Novosti) - South Korea postponed Wednesday's planned launch of its KSLV-1 rocket due to technical problems, Russia's Khrunichev Space Center's spokesman said.

"There will not be a launch today," the spokesman said.

The KSLV-1 (The First Korean Space Launch Vehicle), built in cooperation with Russia, was expected to blast off at noon Moscow time [8:00 GMT].

The Korean Ministry of Education, Science and Technology's official said problems with a fire extinguisher system at the Naro space center were to blame for the postponement.

The rocket was developed jointly by the state-run Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) and Russia's Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center. It weighs 140 metric tons, has a diameter of 3 meters (10 feet) and a height of 33 meters (108 feet).

Russia and South Korea signed a space cooperation deal in October 2004. As part of the deal, Russian experts also helped in the construction of South Korea's first space center on the island of Naro, which was completed last June.

The facility, located 485 kilometers (300 miles) south of the capital Seoul, covers an area of over 5 square km (1.9 square miles). The cost of construction totaled $248.6 million, according to the country's Ministry of Education, Science and Technology.

The previous KSLV-1 launch took place on August 25, 2009. It was described by President Lee Myung-bak as a "half success" as the first and second stages separated as planned, but one of the two fairings covering the satellite failed to fall off.

As a result, the rocket failed to deliver the 100-kg oceanic and atmospheric research satellite into its target orbit.

South Korea began developing its own space program in 1996. Seoul has already launched 11 satellites since 1992, using foreign carrier rockets and launch sites.

Seoul plans to build a more powerful rocket named KSLV-2 and launch it by 2018 without foreign assistance. The vehicle is expected to be a 50-meter (164-foot) three-stage rocket, capable of carrying a payload of up to one metric ton.

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