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August 20, 2009

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Seoul aborts key rocket launch

SOUTH Korea yesterday aborted its first domestic launch of a rocket just minutes before scheduled liftoff because of a technical problem, delaying the country's space ambition for a few days.

Officials said they hoped a new attempt could take place within days.

The launch had been set for 5pm local time from the Naro Space Center off the southern coast of the country but was halted less than eight minutes before liftoff, senior Science Ministry official Lee Sang-mok revealed.

The two-stage rocket, called the Naro and built with Russian help, would have been South Korea's first launch from its own territory.

The domestically built satellite would have observed the atmosphere and ocean, Science Ministry official Yeom Ki-su said.

The launch had been set for July 30 but was delayed due to technical glitches.

Since 1992, the country has launched 11 satellites, all on foreign-made rockets from overseas sites.

Lee said South Korean and Russian scientists were checking the exact cause of the failure and Russian scientists believed another attempt could take place in a few days.

He said trouble with a high-pressure tank that helps operate valves in the launch vehicle may have been the problem.

South Korean officials hope the rocket will boost the country's aim to become a regional space power.


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