Korea delays space launch

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South Korean space officials have said they will delay the country's first space launch until the second quarter of 2009, according to local press reports..

The Korea Space Launch Vehicle (KSLV) is intended to be the first space craft to reach orbit from a launch site in Korea.

The two stage KSLV-1 is being developed by Korea with Russian assistance. The lower first stage of the craft is built in Russia, based on the Angara rocket design.

The upper stage has been developed in Korea. It will also carry a Korean-built satellite into low earth orbit.

While several Korean-owned or developed satellites have been put into orbit in the past, they have been launched in other countries.

The news of the delay was widely anticipated, as officials have been suggesting that more thorough systems checks may be needed before launch.

The launch has been delayed in part because the Russian-designed launch pad and ground test equipment were delivered this weekend – more than a month behind schedule, officials said.

In addition, some Chinese-made rocket parts were delivered late as a result of the the devastating earthquake that hit Southwest China in May.

Delays were advisable because "the government places the greatest importance on a successful first launch," said Lee Ki-sung, chief of the government's space development division told the Yonhap News Agency.

The KSLV-1 launch has already been delayed from an initial date in 2007. The 23-metre-high rocket weighs approximately 140 tons. It has a liquid-fuelled first stage and solid-fuelled second stage.

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