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Why did South Korea's rocket launch fail?

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“They rushed too much,” says an office manager, Kim Myung-sun. “They were under too much pressure. It was because of the money.”

$1 billion program

Such suspicions are widespread in view of the cost of a program that has cost nearly $1 billion all told as a result of years of research culminating first in the failure of the launch of a similar satellite last August and then the one on Thursday. Now Korean officials are saying the Russians will have to pay for a third attempt even though the Khrunichev Space Center is not expected to want to take full responsibility.

South Korean Minister of Education, Science andTechnology Ahn Byong-man cited wording in the agreement with the Russians for the third launch if the first two launches did not put the 100-kilogram satellite into orbit. The satellite, from a relatively low height of 600 kilometers above the earth, was equipped to analyze and forecast weather patterns.

A South Korean official described the mood at the Naro Space Center as “very sad” after a failure that was even worse than the one last August. Russian and South Korean teams of more than 100 scientists and engineers from each country got the word, said Mr. Ahn, after “an inboard camera detected a bright flash of light at 137 seconds into the flight.” The light flash, he said, “coincides exactly with the loss of communication with the two-stage rocket.”

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