Home-Grown Space Rocket Launch Hits Another Snag

      July 01, 2016 12:44

      The epic saga of Korea's attempts to launch its own space rocket hit another snag Wednesday, when developers announced they are postponing the planned launch by 10 months because they have fallen behind.

      The rocket was to be launched in late 2017, but the Korea Aerospace Research Institute met with government officials Wednesday to tell them it could not be done.

      Development of the engine and fuel tank is reportedly much slower than hoped. A rocket's engine must keep blasting for at least 120 seconds after ignition, and the fuel tank must be welded using ultra high-precision technology, but KARI is having trouble in those areas.

      KARI decided to deal with the problems rather than make a headless dash for glory.

      Korea has spent a staggering W1.96 trillion since 2010 on developing its own booster for a three-stage rocket (US$1=W1,156).

      The government had planned to test-launch a two-stage rocket using a 75-ton liquid-fueled booster and seven-ton liquid-fueled engine in December next year. A full-stage launch is slated for 2020.

      But Ko Jeong-hwan at KARI said, "Development of the engine and fuel tank has been delayed by 10 months and the test-launch must be delayed by the same period."

      KARI President Cho Kwang-rae said earlier this month that the institute has developed a 75-ton liquid-fueled engine, but encountered problems with consistent combustion, which were resolved recently. But by then KARI was already 10 months behind.

      KARI is still having trouble producing the fuel and oxidizing agent tanks.

      "Technicians thought the project was feasible since Korea has considerable experience in welding technology accumulated in shipbuilding and heavy industry, but engineers encountered problems maintaining consistent thickness in the welded portions of the rocket booster, which use thin sheets," one expert said on condition of anonymity.

      Korea's space launch vehicle will be equipped with four 75-ton boosters in the first section of the rocket, one engine in the second section and seven-ton liquid-fueled booster in the third.

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