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Final rehearsal yields no major problem for launch of space rocket

No issue that might lead to a forced delay of South Korea's scheduled launch of a space rocket was found in a final rehearsal Wednesday, launch organizers said.

They said the analysis of data obtained in the launch rehearsal confirmed the launch of Korea Space Launch Vehicle-1 (KSLV-1), also known as Naro-1, on Thursday is "technically possible."

"A comprehensive evaluation and analysis of the data showed the launch of Naro space rocket tomorrow is technically possible," the Korea Aerospace Research institute (KARI) said in a released statement.

"The analysis result will be reported to the Launch Preparation Committee, which is set to be held early tomorrow morning, and the committee will then decide whether to launch the space rocket and what time it will be launched based on the outcome of the launch rehearsal and weather conditions," it added.

Whether the Naro space rocket will be launched also depends on many other issues, including weather conditions at the time of its launch, as well as the possibility of a collision with orbital objects in space. The launch of the space rocket is currently scheduled to take place between 4 p.m. and 6:55 p.m. The exact time of the launch is expected to be announced around 1 p.m.

Current weather forecasts expect cloudy skies near the Naro Space Center, 480 kilometers south of Seoul, on Thursday, but KARI officials said there won't be any major problems, at least for now.

"The forecasts say it will be somewhat cloudy, but from what I understand, the weather will not be a real problem," Park Jeong-ju, an official from KARI, told a press briefing.

Thursday's scheduled launch will be Seoul's third attempt to send a space rocket from its own soil after two earlier attempts in 2009 and 2010 ended in failures.

The current space program began in 2002, but the country's lack of experience and related technology forced it to entrust Russia's Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center with the development of the vital first-stage rocket. The upper second-stage rocket of Naro-1 was developed jointly by KARI and some 200 other South Korean companies and institutes.

A successful launch of the rocket on Thursday would make the country the world's 13th nation to send a space rocket from its own soil.

South Korea plans to develop its own 300-ton thrust engine by 2022 following the development of a 10-ton thrust engine in 2016 and a 75-ton engine in 2018.

Though the ongoing space program ends early next year, government officials said they will not be rushed to launch the space rocket.

"What matters is whether we succeed, not how fast we can launch the rocket," Lee Ju-ho, the minister of education, science and technology, said earlier.

The third launch of the KSLV-1 was originally set to take place on Oct. 26, but was delayed until now due to a damaged rubber seal in a connector between the rocket and its launch pad.

KARI officials said the launch may very well be delayed again if necessary, noting every item on a 600-point checklist must be satisfied before the rocket can be launched. The problem in the rubber seal discovered on Oct. 26 was only the 240th item on the checklist.

In addition to technical problems, bad weather conditions and heightened solar activities could also lead to a forced delay, they said. (Yonhap News)