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South Korean Space Program Suffers Another Setback

Satellite Launch Ends After 137 Seconds When Rocket Apparently Explodes

The South Korean space program has reportedly suffered a second setback in less than a year, as a rocket carrying a climate observation satellite has apparently exploded on its way to orbit Thursday.

The vehicle was 137 seconds into its mission when communications with it were lost. "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."

The Associated Press reports that the two-stage NARO rocket appeared to operate normally after the launch, but Ahn said an image from an on-board camera brightened like a flash of light, which may have indicated an explosion.

The NARO's first stage is designed and built by Russia, with South Korea building the second stage. Both countries are now attempting to determine what might have happened to the spacecraft.

It was the second launch of a NARO rocket from the South Korean space center in Goheung, about 300 miles south of Seoul. The first launch was a success, but the satellite was written off when one of its covers failed to come off.

Ahn said another launch would be scheduled when the cause of Thursday's setback is determined.

FMI: www.kari.re.kr/english

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