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S Korea postpones launch of geostationary satellite


The Ariane-5ECA rocket

SEOUL (BNS): South Korea Friday postponed the launch of its first geostationary ocean weather satellite for the second time in two days due to mechanical problems, a Yonhap report said.

The 2.5 ton Chollian communication, ocean and meteorological satellite (COMS), was set to liftoff at 6:41 a.m. (local time) from the Guiana Space Center in Kourou, French Guiana.

The Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) said abnormal "red" readings were repeatedly detected during the final countdown sequence of the Ariane-5ECA rocket.

The launch was stopped twice with the first taking place 17 seconds before blastoff. The countdown was restarted again only to be halted with 16 seconds before blastoff set at 7:48 a.m, the report said.

"The exact cause has yet to be confirmed, but an unexplained drop in pressure in the first stage rocket that forced the launch to be delayed on Thursday may have been the problem again," a KARI official was quoted as saying.

He said Arianespace was moving to determine the exact cause and will announce a new launch date as soon as possible.

The launch may be put off for a few days and if the rocket is removed from the launch pad, the blastoff could be delayed more than a week, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology said.

The Chollian satellite is designed to stay fixed in orbit and give Seoul timely and accurate data on weather and oceanographic information around the Korean Peninsula 24 hours a day. It can also acts as a regular communications satellite.

Seoul spent more than 350 billion won (US$293 million) and eight years building the high-tech satellite that is expected to remain in operation for seven years.

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