South Korea's Second Rocket Likely Exploded During Launch
South Korea readies its new Naro 1 rocket for a June 10, 2010 launch that ended with an apparent explosion just minutes after liftoff.
Credit: Krunichev

South Korea's second attempt to launch a rocket into space failed early Thursday when the booster apparently exploded just minutes after blastoff, according to South Korean news reports.

The new Naro-1 rocket likely exploded about 137 seconds after launching from South Korea's Naro Space Center, said Ahn Byong-man, the country's minster for education, science and technology. It is the second consecutive rocket failure for South Korea in less than a year.

Ahn told South Korea's Yonhap news agency that a camera onboard the rocket recorded a bright flash at the 137-second mark that coincided with a loss of communications. The new rocket blasted off at 4:01 a.m. EDT (0801 GMT), though it was 5:01 p.m. local time at South Korean launch site. [Photos: New American rocket's launch.]

"Talks are underway for a third launch of the rocket," Yonhap quoted Ahn as saying. A pre-existing agreement called on South Korea to launch a third rocket if the first two failed, Yonhap reported.

South Korea's Naro 1 rocket is a two-stage booster that stands about 108 feet (nearly 33 meters) tall. It consists of a Russian-built first stage and a South Korean-built second stage. Naro-1 was carrying a science satellite to make Earth observations.

The rocket's launch had already been delayed from a Wednesday liftoff when a fire suppressant system unexpectedly switched on during the launch countdown. The Naro Space Center is located in Goheung, about 290 miles (465 kilometers) south of Seoul on South Korea's southern coast.

The Naro-1 rocket's failure comes on the heels of South Korea's first rocket launch mishap during the August 2009 test of the Korea Space Launch Vehicle 1. That first test rocket failed to reach orbit after liftoff when the protective shroud covering its satellite payload did not separate properly.