S. Korean Officials Investigate Launch Failure

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WASHINGTON — South Korean officials suspect a rocket fairing or second-stage malfunction in the Aug. 25 failure of the nation’s first attempt to launch a satellite into orbit, according to an official with the South Korean embassy here.

The Korea Space Launch Vehicle (KSLV)-1, developed jointly by South Korea and Russia, lifted off at 5 p.m. local time from the Naro Space Center in Goheung in the southwestern part of the country. However, the payload, the STSAT-2 atmospheric monitoring satellite, did not respond to signals sent from the ground as scheduled intervals after the launch, according to Jin Eyungsul, science counselor at the embassy.

By the following day, officials had concluded that the payload never reached orbit.

Jin said early reports from the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) indicate that the fairing protecting the satellite during launch was improperly released. KARI and Russian officials are continuing their investigation, however, and other possibilities are being probed, he said.

Jin said the team is also looking to see if the rocket’s first or second stages did not achieve their nominal speeds.

Russia’s Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center, which built the KSLV-1’s liquid-fueled first stage, said in a statement Aug. 25 that its hardware performed as designed during the launch. “The Russian side of the joint project should regard the launch as successful while for the Korean side it is only partially so,” Khrunichev said in a statement posted on its Web site.

South Korea built the rocket’s second stage and payload fairing and was responsible for overall vehicle integration.

A glitch with the first stage of the KSLV-1 forced South Korean officials to postpone a launch attempt that had been scheduled for Aug. 19.

South Korea aims to be just the 10th country to launch a satellite into space. The launch of the next KSLV currently is scheduled for May 2010, Jin said.

According to Khrunichev, the KSLV is 33 meters tall, 2.9 meters in diameter and weighs 140 metric tons. It is capable of placing a satellite weighing 100 kilograms into an elliptical orbit with a perigee of 300 kilometers and an apogee of 1,500 kilometers.

Khrunichev signed the contract to develop the KSLV’s first stage in 2004, the company said. Its subcontractors include NPO Energomash, which supplied the propulsion system, and the Transportation Machine-Building Design Bureau, which designed the launcher’s ground complex, Khrunichev said.