SKorea plans to launch satellite after delay

South Korea said Thursday it was pushing ahead with a satellite launch a day after delaying the ambitious project due to malfunctioning firefighting equipment.

South Korean space officials initiated the process to launch a two-stage Naro rocket that will carry an observation satellite to study global warming and climate change, Vice Science Minister Kim Jung-hyun told reporters. He said the exact time of Thursday’s planned launch would be announced later.

On Wednesday, the launch was suspended halted after fire retardant suddenly sprayed from three nozzles set up near the launch pad to extinguish any possible blaze accompanying liftoff.

The planned blastoff at the coastal Naro space center in Goheung, 290 miles (465 kilometers) south of Seoul, would be the country’s second launch of a rocket from its own territory. In the first attempt last August, the satellite failed to go into orbit because one of its two covers apparently failed to come off after liftoff.

Since 1992, South Korea has launched 11 satellites from overseas sites, all on foreign-made rockets.

The first stage of the two-stage Naro rocket was designed and built by Russia and the second by South Korea.

The launch preparations come amid heightened tension on the Korean peninsula after South Korea referred North Korea to the U.N. Security Council over the sinking of a navy ship that killed 46 South Korean sailors.

North Korea — which denies involvement in the sinking — has threatened to retaliate against South Korea for taking it to the U.N. body, saying the South’s action will intensify military tension and could trigger a war.

There was no immediate North Korean reaction to the planned launch by South Korea. Last year, North Korea said it would closely watch the international response to South Korea’s launch after a North Korean rocket launch drew a U.N. rebuke.

North Korea has developed a variety of missiles and launched a long-range rocket from a domestic site in April last year in defiance of international warnings. It said the rocket carried a satellite into orbit as part of a peaceful space development program, but the U.S. and its allies said nothing reached space and the launch was actually a test of long-range missile technology.

South Korea plans to develop a space launch vehicle with its own technology by 2020.

Associated Press