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S Korea postpones rocket launch to 2013

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SEOUL (AFP): South Korea has postponed its third bid to put a satellite in orbit until next year, after a technical problem forced the cancellation of last week's scheduled launch.

"We have decided not to launch the rocket this month," a science ministry official said on Monday.

Engineers are now conducting a "comprehensive" check of the rocket's second stage that will take more than one month, the official said, declining to speculate on when a new attempt could be made.

The 140-tonne Korea Space Launch Vehicle (KSLV-1) was removed from the launch pad at the Naro Space Center on the south coast on Thursday after engineers detected a propulsion system problem with just minutes left on the launch countdown clock.

It was to have been South Korea's third attempt to put a satellite in orbit and gain entry to an elite global space club that includes Asian powers China, India and Japan.

After successive failures with the same KSLV-1 in 2009 and 2010, the current mission is seen as crucial to the future of South Korea's space programme.

The third attempt has now been suspended two times.

Originally scheduled for October 26, it was first delayed by more than a month after engineers detected a broken rubber seal in a connector between the launch pad and the first stage.

The KSLV-1 has a first stage manufactured by Russia and a solid-fuel second stage built by South Korea.

North Korea announced Saturday that it would launch a long-range rocket -- ostensibly aimed at placing a satellite in orbit -- between December 10 and 22.

The United States and its key Asian military allies, South Korea and Japan, insist the launch is a disguised ballistic missile test that violates UN resolutions triggered by Pyongyang's two nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009.

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S Korea  Rocket  Satellite  Space  
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