South Korean Orbital Failure May Have Political Implications

By | August 25, 2009 | Feature, Government

[Satellite News 08-25-09] The launch of the Korea Space Launch Vehicle-1 (Naro), South Korea’s first rocket, failed to deliver its payload — the Korean Science and Technology Satellite 2 (KSTS 2) — into its intended orbit, Korean officials announced Aug. 25.
    The cause of the failure was not immediately known. The satellite, jointly developed by the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, the Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology, and Russia’s Khrunichev space production center to study oceanic and atmospheric changes in climate, landed in the Pacific Ocean. “All aspects of the launch were normal, but the satellite exceeded its planned orbit and reached an altitude of 360 kilometers,” Ahn Byung-man, Korea’s Minister of Science and Technology, said in a statement to Korean press officials. “The satellite was intended to separate at about 302 kilometers.”
    South Korean reports claimed that they first noticed the orbit failure when the rocket appeared flying at 342 kilometers above Australia rather than the expected 306 kilometers. Naro’s first stage, based on the Russian Angara engine, separated normally, and the second stage launch also went smoothly, officials said. Russian and South Korean officials are now meeting to discuss the likely cause of the failure.
    The loss of KSTS 2 comes after the launch of the spacecraft was postponed seven times dating back to 2005. Its payload, which is referred to as the Science and Technology Satellite 2. South Korea had spent $402 million on the project since it began in August 2002.
    Despite the loss of the spacecraft, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak released a joint statement with the Korean Science Ministry calling the Naro mission a "half success," as KSTS 2 separated from its payload into an unintended orbit. South Korean officials said they hoped the launch of the Naro rocket would position the country to become a regional space power, along with China, Japan and India, after its political rival North Korea claimed to have launched a satellite in April on a multistage rocket, which drew international condemnation. North Korea did not comment on the KSTS 2 launch but warned that it would “closely watch” whether the international community criticized South Korea as much as North Korea was criticized for its actions in April.
    “North Korea will surely try to use the South Korean launch to justify its own, but in the end, its attempt will be dismissed as propaganda because there are clear differences between the two,” Jeung Young-tae, an analyst at the government-financed Korea Institute for National Unification, said in a statement. South Korea plans to launch a 1,360-kilogram multipurpose commercial satellite on a fully indigenous rocket, KSLV-2, possibly in 2018.
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