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South Korean rocket ready for second flight Wednesday

Posted: June 8, 2010

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Nine months after a precursor rocket fell short of orbit, South Korea moved its second satellite launcher to an oceanside pad Monday for another test flight slated to lift off as early as Wednesday.

The KSLV rocket stands on the launch pad Monday. Credit: KARI
Korean and Russian engineers rolled the rocket from an assembly building to the launch pad at the Naro Space Center early Monday, but an electrical problem delayed work to hoist the rocket on the complex.

Workers finally lifted the 108-foot-tall Korea Space Launch Vehicle 1 vertically atop the pad late Monday evening, according to the Korea Aerospace Research Institute, or KARI.

News reports said launch preparations fell behind schedule, but South Korea's science minister said Tuesday the liftoff would go on as planned Wednesday.

The part-Russian, part-Korean rocket will blast off from the Naro Space Center on the southern tip of the Korean peninsula. The launch site is located in the South Joella province about 300 miles south of Seoul.

The booster's launch window opens at 0730 GMT and closes at 0940 GMT Wednesday, or between 4:30 and 6:40 p.m. local time. South Korean space officials will meet three hours before the window's opening to determine an official launch time, according to KARI.

If the mission succeeds, South Korea would join eight other countries, plus Europe, with their own space launchers. But South Korea is relying on foreign help.

The KSLV's first stage, built by Russia's Khrunichev space company, will power the rocket off the launch pad and guide it south from the Naro Space Center. The stage's RD-151 engine, producing 375,000 pounds of thrust, will send the rocket to an altitude of 122 miles over the East China Sea within about four minutes.

File photo of the first KSLV launch in August 2009. Credit: KARI
The RD-151 engine is a smaller version of the propulsion system used on Zenit and Atlas rockets.

Khrunichev's contribution to the KSLV program is based on the universal rocket stage designed for Russia's Angara launcher, which the country envisions will carry a wide range of satellites to space beginning in 2012, at the earliest. The Angara can fly with clusters of three to five universal first stages to haul heavier spacecraft to orbit.

Angara development delays caused by insufficient funding pushed back the rocket's first flight until after the introduction of the KSLV, meaning the new Russian rocket stage's first flight was from Korean soil.

Russian and Korean officials both say the Khrunichev first stage performed well during the August flight.

Khrunichev also oversaw the construction of the Naro launch site, including the pad, processing facilities and a control center.

The clamshell-like payload fairing is scheduled to separate in two pieces late in the first stage burn at T+plus 3 minutes, 35 seconds. It is that event that doomed the KSLV's debut launch in August 2009.

See the KSLV's launch timeline for more details.

The KSLV payload fairing in ground testing. Credit: KARI
Officials released footage from cameras on-board the rocket showing half of the fairing did not jettison, weighing down the vehicle and causing the Korean-built upper stage to lose control. The problems were enough for the rocket to fall short of orbit.

Engineers believe they have fixed the problem, and if all goes well, the solid-fueled second stage will place a 200-pound test satellite named STSAT 2B into orbit.

The timeline calls for the small satellite to separate nine minutes after liftoff.