A family looks at models of the Naro rocket at an exhibition center in the I’Park Mall at Yongsan, Seoul, Monday. The mall built the models to wish for a successful third launch of the locally assembled rocket, set for Friday. / Yonhap
By Cho Mu-hyun
The third launch of the Korean Space Launch Vehicle (KSLV-1), colloquially known as Naro, will go ahead as planned on Oct. 26 despite earlier concerns of a possible change in the launch date, Minister of Education, Science and Technology Lee Ju-ho said Monday.
At a press conference Lee stated that Korea Aerospace Research Institute’s (KARI) schedule will remain unchanged although it is likely that there will be slight rain on the launch date Friday.
“We have created a committee for the third launch of Naro and reviewed the technological preparation and weather forecast and decided that a launch on the 26th was possible,” Lee said.
The Korea Meteorological Administration has forecast clouds in the morning and rain during the afternoon around the Goheung Space Center in South Jeolla Province.
The minister added that “Though we will prepare for the launch around the set date, we may delay it if it becomes apparent or highly possible that there will be strong rain.”
The ministry and KARI said that all checks on the rocket were finished Sunday and it has been moved to the launch facility. The preparation of the launch pad has also been completed, while the satellites to be deployed by the rocket will go through final inspections up until launch.
If no serious setbacks occur, the rocket will be raised onto the launch pad Wednesday and will go through a final countdown check Thursday.
The minister also added during the briefing that “regardless of the success of the third launch of Naro, the plan for the KSLV-2 set for 2021 will be accelerated. We plan to receive launch orders for overseas satellites that will be launched on domestic rockets as we actively venture into the commercial market.”
Lee’s statement seems to settle the issue of a “brain drain” raised by National Assembly member Lee Yong-sup last week that could be problematic for KARI’s long-term plans.
The Assemblyman asserted that due to the research institute’s employment of a substantial amount of non-regular employees, there may be problems with the launch of the KSLV-2. KARI representatives strongly denied this, going far as to call Lee’s arguments “ridiculous.”
However, the more serious issue concerning the research institute is whether it will succeed in the latest launch after two previous failures. The three launches together will have cost over 500 billion won and this has raised concerns as to whether the space project is worth the money.