By Kim Tong-hyung
South Korean ambitions to launch the country’s first space rocket by Christmas might have to be put on hold for a few months.
The Korean Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) had planned to send its Korea Space Launch Vehicle-1 (KSLV-1), a carrier rocket designed for transporting satellites, into orbit on Dec. 21.
However, with its Russian partner failing to deliver the ground test vehicle (GTV), a machine for testing the rocket engine and liquid-fueled propulsion system, in time, there is the possibility the launch date could be moved to next year.
``We have been doing everything on time and still expect the rocket to be launched in December,’’ said Eum Young-shik, a KARI spokesperson.
``However, how the Russians do their job is out of our control and there have been some delays to date,’’ he said.
The Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center, which is providing the technology for the KSLV-1 project, was to send the GTV to Korea during this month. Now, KARI officials can’t give a date.
KARI officials declined to comment on the contract signed with the Khrunichev center, as it was a signed as a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) between the two countries, but said it does include a protection clause that allows for compensation should the Russians fail to meet the conditions of technology delivery.
However, another KARI official, who refused to be named, said it was too early to consider such a possibility at this point.
``A late delivery of the GTV has been the only true obstacle in the project so far, and we don’t see any signs of derailment,’’ he said.
The Russians have been requesting the rocket launch be pushed back at least three months, claiming that the construction of the launch pad will take at least 23 months.
It wasn’t until March last year that the Khrunichev center sent the blueprint for the launch pad to KARI, due to the delayed signing of the technology cooperation pact between the two countries.
However, KARI is confident that it can complete the launch pad at the Naro Space Center, located on the southwestern island of Oinarudo, by September. So making possible the December launching depends just as much on the technical sophistication of Hyundai Construction, which is building the launch pad at Naro, as Russian rocket scientists.
The KSLV-1 is a dual-structured rocket, and the Russians are expected to build the lower assembly that contains the liquid-fuelled propulsion system. The upper part of the rocket, which carries the satellite, is made from domestic technology.