Navy finds 'debris' from failed S Korean rocket launch

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A South Korean navy ship has recovered debris apparently from a failed rocket launch.

The rocket is thought to have exploded 137 seconds after take-off on Thursday, ending South Korea's latest attempt to join the space launch industry.

The debris was picked up at sea 470 kilometres (292 miles) south of the Naro Space Centre at Goheung.

The Naro-1 rocket, built with Russian help, is thought to have blown up at an altitude of 70 kilometres (44 miles).

The debris will be handed over to the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (Kari) for analysis, the South Korean Ministry for Science, Education and Technology said.

Russia and South Korea will jointly examine the reasons for the rocket's failure and decide whether to push ahead with a third launch, the ministry said.

Analysts say the reported failure is a major setback for South Korea in what some observers have described as an "Asian space race".

Pictures on South Korean television appear to show the rocket's final moments, with the cameras following a white speck on its downward trajectory into the sea.


The launch was South Korea's second attempt to put a satellite in space, after a launch in August 2009 failed.

The country had been hoping to become only the 10th in the world able to put satellites into space, and thereby gain a lucrative slice of the growing space launch industry.

China, India and Japan have developed a launch capability; China has also sent three manned missions into space.

The satellite - which had been intended to study the effects of climate change - should have separated from the rocket and deployed its solar panels some nine minutes after take-off, at an altitude of 302km.

The rocket had been due to take off on Wednesday, but lift-off was cancelled three hours before launch after fire extinguishing fluids were detected leaking from parts of the equipment.

The Ministry for Education, Science and Technology said thorough checks had confirmed the leaks did not affect the safety of the rocket and the launch had been rescheduled.

Weather conditions had been closely checked in the final hours before the latest launch. A spokesman for Kari said all faulty hardware had been replaced and steps taken to prevent a repeat of the earlier faults.

The rocket stood 33m (108ft) tall and was launched from the country's new spaceport on the southern tip of the Korean peninsula.

South Korea's first launch of the two-stage KSLV-1 last year failed to place its satellite payload into the proper orbit.

Earlier last year, an attempted space launch by North Korea was deemed to have failed when the US reported that both rocket stages had fallen into the Pacific Ocean.

The North's launch was seen as a cover for a long-range missile test, and prompted UN sanctions.

Pyongyang had voiced irritation at the South's rocket development, but most other powers in the region accepted that its attempt was part of a peaceful civilian programme.

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