A South Korean rocket carrying a climate observation satellite apparently exploded 137 seconds into its flight early Thursday. The two-stage Naro rocket operated normally during and after liftoff from the country’s space center, Minister of Education, Science and Technology Ahn Byong-man said. But then communications with the rocket were lost.
This is the country’s second major space setback in less than a year.
The blastoff at the coastal space center in Goheung, 290 miles south of Seoul, took place at 8:01 GMT, and was the country’s second attempt to launch of a rocket from within their own borders. In the first attempt last August, the satellite failed to reach orbit because one of the fairings apparently failed to come off after liftoff despite the rocket launch itself being considered a success.
Today, contact was lost as the rocket reached an altitude of 70 kilometers (44 miles). The video from South Korean television doesn’t show an explosion, but only appears to follow a white speck on its downward trajectory into the sea.
“We believe that the Naro rocket is likely to have exploded,” Ahn Byong-man, Minister of Education, Science and Technology told reporters. “We are sorry for failing to live up to people’s expectations.”
He said South Korean and Russian experts were trying to find the cause of the problem. The first stage of the two-stage Naro rocket was designed and built by Russia and the second by South Korea.
Since 1992, South Korea has launched 11 satellites from overseas sites, all on foreign-made rockets. The country hopes to develop a space launch vehicle with its own technology by 2020.
Sources: NPR, BBC