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Fire system glitch halts South Korea rocket launch

world Updated: Jun 09, 2010 12:46 IST

Reuters
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South Korea scrapped plans to launch a scientific satellite into orbit on Wednesday due to a glitch in the fire-extinguishing system on the launchpad in the latest setback for the country's space programme.

Last minute checks uncovered malfunctions, Ministry of Science spokesman Phun Kyung-bum told a briefing, adding it was unlikely engineers would resume the countdown on Wednesday.

The launch had been scheduled for 0800 GMT.

South Korea has been trying to build a domestic space programme that can eventually challenge the
far more advanced programmes of regional rivals China, India and Japan. It has enlisted Russia's help to develop a rocket called Naro-1.

The rocket lifted off successfully in August 2009 but failed to put a scientific satellite into orbit because of problems in stage-separation systems, dealing a blow to the country's nascent space programme.

That launch last year riled neighbour North Korea, which said it had been unjust for it to be hit with UN sanctions for firing a long-range rocket in April 2009. Regional powers saw that launch as a ballistic missile test in disguise and thus a violation of UN measures.

Apart from North Korea, few doubt the South's rocket was for anything but its civilian space programme. But the launch did raise questions about implications for regional security.