South Korean civil rocket launch called off, again

SEOUL Thu Nov 29, 2012 4:05am EST

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SEOUL Nov 29 (Reuters) - South Korea cancelled the launch of its first space rocket on Thursday after a glitch in the propulsion system halted the countdown just minutes before the scheduled lift-off.

It was South Korea's third attempt to put a rocket into orbit and the second time this particular mission has failed.

October's scheduled launch was also called off due to a glitch in the Russian-built booster. No new launch schedule has been set.

"We are currently analysing the cause and expect it will take additional time to identify the exact cause," Lee Joo-ho, Minister of Education, Science and Technology told reporters.

South Korea's rocket programme has irritated neighbour North Korea, which says it is unjust for it to be singled out for U.N. sanctions for launching long-range rockets as part of its space programme to put a satellite into orbit.

Regional powers believe the North's rocket launches are to test its long-range ballistic missiles, in violation of a U.N. ban. The North's latest rocket test in April ended in failure after it crashed minutes into flight.

South Korea is already far behind regional rivals China and Japan in the effort to build space rockets to put satellites into orbit and has relied on other countries, including Russia, to launch them.

Thursday's glitch was in the thrust vector control in the upper second stage of the rocket that guides the propulsion of the vehicle, launch officials said.

Launch attempts in 2009 and 2010 also ended in failure.

Recent satellite images have indicated that North Korea too may be readying a new rocket launch. (Reporting By Somang Yang, Editing by Jonathan Thatcher)

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