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“It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I didn't feel like a giant. I felt very, very small.” – Neil Armstrong (1930-2012)

Fresh Reads from the Science 'o sphere!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

South Korea Launches Naro-1 Rocket

Yesterday, South Korea launched their first Naro-1 (also called KSLV-1) rocket from Naro Space Centre at Goheung.

Technically it was a cooperative effort with the Russians who designed and built the first stage of the rocket, while the Koreans built the second stage and its payload, the STSAT-2 satellite.

Check out the launch video:

One of the scariest launches I've seen so far!

The vehicle leans to the right immediately after lift-off and then makes a sharp correction to the left.

Not sure why this happened but I'm guessing that the gantry arm might have something to do with it; a video taken from another angle showed the rocket leaning away when released from the gantry.

In any case the rocket managed to reach space, but the satellite was sent to a maximum height of 342 km, which is higher than its planned orbit at 306 km. Some news sources report this as "overshooting the orbit" or "higher orbit" or "incorrect orbit" but I think it's more likely that the flight path was too elliptical to even make one complete orbit.

According to Reuters, South Korea's space agency had tried to play down expectations, saying that only about 30 percent of countries' first attempts to put a satellite into orbit succeed. Their officials have called this project a "partial success".

*Update: The satellite failed to reach orbit because one of the two fairings that covered it during the atmospheric phase did not fall off properly, causing the rocket to pitch up and also to lose too much speed to enter orbit (S. Korean Satellite Lost After Flawed Launch - Korea Times).

Would you like to know more?

- Latest updates: KSLV-1 launch (NASA spaceflight forum)
- Satellite Fails to Enter Orbit (The Korea Times)