South Korea will try again today to launch its first space rocket, a move that will be watched warily by reclusive North Korea, after halting last week’s countdown minutes before lift-off.
South Korea’s space agency said the August 19 launch was aborted because of a glitch with pressure gauge software.
Fuel was removed from the rocket after the halt, requiring several days to reschedule.
The development of the rocket, the Korea Space Launch Vehicle-1, or Naro-1, depended heavily on Russia’s Khrunichev space production centre, which built the first stage booster, conducted tests and provided technical assistance.
The Naro-1 is 33 meters (108 ft) long and the two-stage rocket was built at a cost of 502.5 billion won ($400 million) (R3127 million).
The launch is expected to rile prickly North Korea, which was hit by UN sanctions after its fired off a long-range rocket in April in what was widely seen as a disguised missile test. North Korea, which chastised the world body for the punishment, said earlier this month it was paying close attention to the South’s rocket program.
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 its nascent space program lags far behind Japan, China, India, and to some extent North Korea. Seoul is betting that a successful launch will give it the technical prowess to catch up quickly with its rivals.
South Korea’s space agency has tried to play down expectations, saying that only about 30 percent of countries’ first attempts to put a satellite into orbit succeed.
Pic: Space launch