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`Software Glitch Caused Suspension of Rocket Launch`

Posted August. 21, 2009 08:20,   


A computer software error caused the suspension of the launch of Korea’s first space rocket KSLV-1, or Naro, the Korea Aerospace Research Institute said yesterday.

The phase-one rocket and the software that caused the problem were supplied by Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center of Russia. A new launch schedule will likely be determined after the Russian agency corrects the error.

The institute told a news briefing yesterday, “The valve that supplies liquid fuel to Naro’s phase-one rocket is operated by helium, and an error occurred in the software that measures the pressure in the tank containing helium, which automatically halted the launch.”

Vice Education, Science and Technology Minister Kim Jung-hyun also said, “Korean and Russian scientists held a meeting of the flight testing committee Wednesday and Thursday to find the cause for the launch suspension. They discovered a discrepancy between the pressure in the helium tank and the reading on the software.”

“It will likely take at least three days to fix the software error, reapply it to Naro, and finish testing.”

Kim indicated that the tank’s pressure was normal, but that the software inaccurately measured the pressure.

Hence, the next launch date will likely be Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday at the earliest, which were originally set as alternative launch dates.

Institute director Lee Joo-jin said, “We’re doing our best to launch the Naro by Aug. 26, which is one of the alternative launch dates given to the International Maritime Organization and the International Civil Aviation Organization.”

“The exact schedule can be determined only after work to fix the software is completed.”

Yet the Naro was moved from the launch pad to the general assembly building at 2:30 p.m. yesterday, causing one aerospace expert to say, “The delay in the launch could become prolonged.”

If the problem is a simple one, there would have been no need for the troublesome task of relocating Naro.

“We only moved the rocket to the assembly building because it has a more stable work environment,” Kim said. “Since fuel was completely removed from the rocket soon after the launch was canceled, the Naro is presently in good condition.”

Even if the problem lies in the software as the institute claims, the launch could still be postponed to next month. If correcting the software is delayed or additional problems surface in a close checkup and the launch date is rescheduled after Wednesday, Korea must inform international organizations of the new date again, and thus a delay to next month is a possibility.

kunta@donga.com uneasy75@donga.com