February 01, 2013 11:22
Korea's Naro satellite is successfully orbiting the earth and sending signals back to a series of relay stations along its course.
The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology on Thursday said the Naro satellite flew over Korean air space and succeeded in communicating with the satellite research center at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology between 3:28 a.m. and 3:42 a.m.
The satellite will spend the year orbiting the earth 14 times a day at altitudes of between 300 to 1,500 km, measuring radiation levels in space and conducting other space science experiments, the ministry added.
The final confirmation of the successful launch on Wednesday has also allowed Russian researchers who took part in the project to breathe a sigh of relief. Another failed launch would have cost the Russians their reputation in the lucrative market for commercial rocket technology.
Russia has launched a total of 3,159 rockets since 1950 and 2,957 have been successful, giving it a 93.6 percent success rate. That level of success is far ahead of the U.S. and other powerhouses in space technology.
During the Cold War, the Soviet Union had the globally-recognized Zenit and Soyuz rockets, but with the collapse of the USSR, the scientists and engineers who were involved in the production of those rockets dispersed, while the factories that made them were dismantled.
Russia needed to develop a new rocket on its own, and the next-generation Angara rocket was created under these circumstances. But the liquid-fueled, first stage booster of the Angara is the same used in the Naro, and this prompted some experts to claim that the launch of the Naro was practically a test launch of the Angara.
In its second launch attempt, the Naro exploded 137 seconds after liftoff. The exact cause of the mishap remains largely a mystery following a two-year probe. But experts say a Russian-made component that causes the first and second stages of the rocket to separate malfunctioned.
In August last year, Khrunichev, which developed the Angara family of rockets, failed in its attempt to launch another next-generation rocket called Proton M. And in October, the scheduled launch of the Naro rocket was halted after a problem was found in a Russian-made component.
If the launch of the Naro had failed again this time, Russia would have suffered a huge dent to its reputation as a leader in space development. Russian scientists, who had grown extremely anxious, apparently exchanged an unprecedented amount of ideas with Korean scientists as they prepared for the latest launch.
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