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Countdown Begins for Korea’s Space Program

Posted October. 20, 2008 08:44,   


Oinarodo Space Center on the southwestern tip of the Korean Peninsula is the first domestic facility to house a space launching pad.

The center is preparing for the launch of the small satellite launcher KSVL-1 slated for the second quarter next year. Staff are busy conducting ground rocket tests and building the launch pad.

At the rocket assembly wing located in the heart of the space center Thursday, a researcher pressed a button to get a heavy crane moving. The crane easily lifted the two-ton upper rocket of the KSVL-1 and placed it in front of the first-stage rocket stored at the opposite side of the assembly building.

A simulation test was conducted on assembly of the first- and second-stage rockets.

The 33-meter, 140-ton KSLV-1 consists of the first- and second-stage rockets; the first will shoot Korea’s second science satellite 164 km in the air. The second pushes it up into orbit in space.

Korea is building its first rocket with Russia and developing its second and the satellite on its own.

The satellite KSLV-1 will be launched in the second quarter next year. A delay in the development of the first-stage rocket put off the launch to next year instead of this year.

Senior space researcher Cho Gwang-rae said, “Our prospects for the first launch are less than 30 percent. This is a world record. We don’t want to rush and spoil the launch.”

The launch facility is on the Mount Machi facing Dadohae Maritime National Park. Construction will be completed in December. Within a 10-minute bus ride from the assembly building, three 75-meter iron lightning rods are designed to prevent thunder from reaching the launch pad.

Groundbreaking for the center came in April 2001 along with a budget of 312.5 billion won (238.5 million U.S. dollars). The nine wings include the control tower, radar and rocket assembly sections, and a museum.

Center chief Min Gyeong-ju said, “We have complied with the rules set by Russia, a country with a long space history. It’s a world-class space center. We’re proud of it.”

The facility’s 120 staff members and 100 employees of the center’s builder Hyundai Heavy Industries and rocket assembler Korean Air are on 24-hour alert seven days a week.

A senior Education Ministry official said, “Should we succeed in launching the satellite next year, Korea will become the ninth country to launch a satellite and the 13th to have a launch facility.”