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SKorea to launch first space rocket in July: official

by Staff Writers
Seoul (AFP) March 12, 2009
South Korea's government said Tuesday it had approved plans to launch the country's first rocket into space in late July.

The National Space Committee gave the green light to the planned launch, tentatively scheduled for July 30 at Naro Space Centre in Goheung, about 475km (297 miles) south of Seoul, a government statement said.

Construction of the rocket is in effect complete and work is to begin soon to connect the first-stage main thruster to the second-stage space vehicle, the state-run Korea Aerospace Research Institute said.

The thruster was built in Russia, which also helped design the launch pad. South Korean engineers built the rocket's second stage and the satellite it will carry into orbit.

The launch vehicle weighs 140 tonnes, stands 33 metres (108 feet) tall and has a diameter of three metres.

Seoul has spent some 500 billion won (340 million dollars) since 2002 on the project.

The launch of the Korea Space Launch Vehicle-1 (KSLV-1) has been postponed twice.

It was first delayed from late 2008 to late June this year after China's Sichuan province earthquake last year caused problems securing key parts, and again until late July to give engineers more time for tests.

Rival North Korea in April fired a rocket to launch a satellite, but the United States and its allies say this was a disguise to test a long-range missile.

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